About the Disaster Studies Group

Natural disasters and violent conflicts affect the lives of a great number of people across the world, especially in developing and unstable countries. The impact of conflicts and disasters on people’s security, livelihood and future prospects is often dramatic, and disproportionally hits those that are already poor and marginalized.

Despite efforts to address these problems, these are likely to continue to mark global development in the decades to come. Belying post Cold War optimism, technological and institutional progress has not been able to guarantee people’s security. This forces us to rethink the nature of planned development.

Conflict and disaster are fields with a high density of external interventions, which include emergency assistance, military measures, development aid and peace building. Such interventions easily get caught up in the dynamics of conflict and disaster producing unforeseen results. Local actors in hazard or war affected areas develop their own capacities to deal with crises and shape the outcome of external interventions.

These issues are at the centre of teaching, research and advisory work at Disaster Studies. We try to arrive at a better understanding of how disasters and conflicts come about, how they affect people and transform societies, and how different actors, local and global, respond to disaster and conflict. We look for ways to strengthen such responses by contributing to well-informed policy and context-sensitive practice.

  • Disaster Studies offers teaching and thesis possibilities at the Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD levels. Our courses are open to students of different disciplines, as well as to professionals in the fields of development and conflict and disaster response. Disaster Studies welcomes students interested in writing a BSc, MSc or PhD thesis on the issues of conflict, disaster and aid.
  • Research at Disaster Studies looks into questions of vulnerability and disaster response, processes of re-ordering in the context of disruption and displacement, and the policy and practice of humanitarian aid, peace building and reconstruction. Special attention is given to the role and perspectives of the actors involved, at the local and global levels, and the analysis of planned intervention. Ethnographic research is an important aspect of our work, which is complemented with other qualitative, quantitative and participatory techniques.
  • Disaster Studies aims to contribute to policy debates and strengthen local and international responses to conflict and disaster. To this end, much of our research is interactive in nature and builds on dialogue with policy-makers and people in the field. We are engaged in advisory work for a number of recurrent partners, especially NGOs.
  • Disaster Studies edits a series of reports and working papers, Disaster Sites. Copies of Disaster Sites as well as a number of publications of our staff can be obtained from the Secretariat.
  • Disaster Studies operates an extensive annotated literature database which is accessible to students and others.

Disaster Studies was created in 1997 at the initiative of the Stichting Nationaal Erfgoed Hotel De Wereld. In 2004, Disaster Studies acquired a regular status at Wageningen University, as a section of the chairgroup Rural Development Sociology.