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Changemakers in Emergency Management

posted on 2023-08-04, 11:52 authored by Heather Anita Henrietta Kirkland

This dissertation draws on sixteen months of research conducted virtually and in several cities of the United States including Boulder Colorado, Baltimore Maryland, Orlando Florida, Washington DC, Emmitsburg Maryland, Omaha Nebraska, College Station Texas, and Delaware. This research project contributes to the anthropological study of disasters focusing on the intersection of diversity, equity, and inclusion in Emergency Management. I examine the experiences of leaders working to foster change in hazard mitigation and emergency management, to improve outcomes for marginalized communities. The current demographic composition of the hazard and disaster mitigation field is not representative of the groups most impacted by disasters. Research findings to date highlight that “the phenomena of racial & ethnic minorities having increased difficulty evacuating before a crisis and being more likely to experience a disproportionate physical and financial loss in disasters” (Dixon and Louis-Charles 2015:21). There is a correlation between generational wealth and disaster outcomes. A longitudinal study examining the intersection of wealth inequality and disaster aid found that the needs of the disenfranchised and disempowered are often overlooked in the distribution of aid. My ethnographic study, set out to capture the experiences of people who are underrepresented in emergency management. This includes a range of people who are socially located on the margins of race, class, gender, sexuality, and functional access norms. In addition to semi structured and structured interviews, I conducted focus groups and participation observation at annual emergency management & natural hazard conferences. I also conducted roundtable discussions with lawmakers, social scientists, emergency mangers, and analyzed transcripts from panel discussions. The people featured in my study largely represent racial and ethnic marginalized groups, women, low-income populations, and people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. I explore the intersectionality of these perspectives to understand how underrepresented groups navigate emergency management as leaders. The limitation with the sample is a lack of diversity among respondents in terms of geographic region and disability. The notable contribution of my dissertation research is recording and analysis of the most innovative ideas coming from outside of Emergency Management. This dissertation drives our field forward by refocusing our attention on community initiatives and inviting a perspective of hope in the future of disaster studies.





Degree Awarded: Ph.D. Anthropology. American University.; Electronic thesis available to American University authorized users only, per author's request.


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