Current Institutional Affiliation
Professor of Political Science, Public Policy and Urban Affairs, Department of Political Science, Security and Resilience Studies, Northeastern University

Award Information

Abe Fellowship 2006
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Advanced Research Fellow, Program on US- Japan Relations, Harvard University
The Role of Civil Society in Post-Disaster Recovery

I seek support for ten months in Japan and two in India as part of a cross-national research project to investigate how civil society affects post-disaster renewal. My project argues that the success of rebuilding depends on the strength of social infrastructure, a proposition supported by my previous book on controversial facilities (currently under review). While recent catastrophes have driven home the destructive power of natural disasters, social science research has not provided clear insights into the recovery process. Few scholars have used a comparative approach to the issue, and most have focused on aid, socioeconomic indicators, and damage levels in explaining the pace of recuperation. Centered in Japan, this project will make selective comparisons with the United States and India using qualitative and quantitative data. Through fieldwork and data analysis, I hope to test theories about the role of civil society in recovery from crises. Disaster recovery is a major, pressing concern for industrial societies such as Japan and the United States along with developing nations around the world. Researchers predict that the toll of disasters both in terms of lives and property damage, will continue to increase. Recent catastrophes, including the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake which struck Kobe in 1995, the floods caused by Hurricane Katrina which devastated New Orleans in 2005, and the Boxing Day Tsunami in Southeast Asia in 2004 have underscored the critical relevance of disaster recovery. While some communities and regions have recovered rapidly, others seem to be lagging in their re-development. To better understand the role of social capital in rebuilding after a natural disaster, this project uses an explicitly comparative approach focusing upon voluntary associations, citizens' groups, and networks of residents in Japan, the United States, and India. This research can help formulate more effective policies for post-crisis renewal and suggest more efficient uses for external aid and assistance. It may be that, as in the field of international aid and economic development, money should be focused on rebuilding and cementing social connections rather than solely on physical infrastructure.