Disruption and recovery of intangible resources during environmental crises: Longitudinal research on 'home' in post-disaster Puerto Rico

Gemma Sou, Ruth Webber

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There are many strategies and models that attempt to measure
the impacts and losses from environmental crises. However, there remains
a conceptual and methodological bias as assessments provide estimates of
tangible and quantifiable indicators, whilst impact to intangible
resources that are not easily quantifiable remain a significant oversight
in disaster studies more specifically, and sustainability research more
broadly. In this paper we use in-depth longitudinal qualitative data to
theoretically and empirically demonstrate how intangible resources shape
people's experience of so-called "natural" disasters. Building on this,
we critically unpack how intangible resources facilitate household
disaster recovery. We focus on home - an intangible resource - in order
to explore these issues. The case study in Puerto Rico shows that the
social characteristics of home are challenged, transformed, and/or
exacerbated in different ways, and at different times, in post-disaster
contexts. Our longitudinal approach reveals how people's feelings of
belonging and attachment, alienation and detachment from home, fluctuate
over time. In this way, the paper sheds light on how intangible resources
are experienced temporally and spatially. The paper also reveals that the
performance of actors such as the State and Non-governmental
organisations significantly shape how intangible resources such as home
are transformed, and households' agency to maintain and recover such
intangibles in post-disaster contexts. The analysis directly challenges
the skewed and reductive hierarchies of what counts as a disaster loss.
This is an innately political endeavour because it aims to develop
strategic decision-making, from prepar
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)182-192
Early online date29 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute


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