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Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Social Capital: Its Dimensions and Gender-Based Critiques
  4. Research Setting and Method
  5. Social Capital's Benefits for Women Survivors
  6. Overcoming the Stigma of Public Assistance and Surviving with Dignity
  7. Implications for Policy Makers: Can We Create Social Capital?
  8. Have Enabling Institutions in Place
  9. Conclusion
  10. Acknowledgments
  11. References

Although social capital has made inroads into the public administration literature, little is known about the gender dimensions of social capital in the context of a disaster. This article examines what kind of benefits, if any, social capital offers for women who are affected by disasters. Studying this question is important because it would help public administrators overcome the unique vulnerabilities of women and strengthen their capabilities in preparing for, responding to, and recovering from disasters. This case study of the city of Gölcük, Turkey, suggests that social capital offers benefits for women affected by disasters because it is therapeutic in nature and helps women gain empowerment and avoid the stigma of public assistance. The article offers lessons on how public administrators could build social capital in disaster-stricken communities by enabling face-to-face interaction, initiating leadership programs, and putting in place institutions and policies that are conducive to collective action.

The term “social capital” initially was introduced to the scholarly world through the writings of sociologists Pierre Bourdieu (1986) and James Coleman (1988). However, it was political scientist Robert Putnam (1995, 2000) who popularized the concept across the disciplines with his work Bowling Alone. Although the concept has been subject to much criticism since its inception, it has made inroads into many disciplines ranging from public health (Yip et al. 2007) to urban planning (Arefi 2004). In Portes's words, social capital was “arguably one of the most successful ‘exports’ from sociology to other social sciences and to public discourse” (2000, 1).

The social capital concept has received attention in the public administration literature as well. Scholars have examined social capital's link with volunteerism (Simon 2002), governance (Musso et al. 2006), participation (Lowndes, Pratchett, and Stoker 2006), anticorruption measures (Shim and Eom 2009), public sector reform (Gregory 1999), public procurement (Erridge and Greer 2002), and performance management (Wichowsky and Moynihan 2008). Kapucu has extended social capital's application to disaster management. In his study of the September 11, 2001, disaster (2006a, 2006b), he found that predisaster social capital ensures effective interagency collaboration and partnerships between the public and nonprofit sectors during emergency response.

Studies across the disciplines suggest that predisaster social capital enhances communities’ disaster preparedness and response capacity (Buckland and Rahman 1999), helps reduce mega-cities’ disaster risks and vulnerabilities (Wisner 2003), and contributes to successful and speedy household and community recovery (Brouwer and Nhassengo 2006; Nakagawa and Shaw 2004). Some studies, however, propose that predisaster social capital may have negative consequences for communities, such as hindering timely evacuation (Buckland and Rahman 1999) and speedy housing recovery (Aldrich and Crook 2008).

Despite the growing interest in social capital and disasters, we have yet to turn our attention to social capital's gender dimensions in the public administration and disaster literatures. This article aims to fill that gap in the literature by exploring what kinds of benefits, if any, social capital offers for women who are affected by disasters. This question is of utmost importance for public administration scholars and practitioners for two reasons. First, it would enhance their understanding of how to overcome the unique vulnerabilities of women in preparing for, responding to, and recovering from disasters. Studies show not only that more women die in disasters than men (Neumayer and Plümper 2007), but also that women and women-headed households have limited access to formal relief and recovery mechanisms after disasters, and therefore they take more time to recover (Morrow and Enarson 1996). Second, studying social capital's benefits for women would help public administrators better recognize and strengthen women's capacities, thereby enabling a more responsive and effective recovery. Although women may be more vulnerable to disasters, they have unique capacities, and they often play active roles in relief and recovery (Enarson 1999).

To examine social capital's benefits for women in a postdisaster context, this article utilizes data from a qualitative case study of the city of Gölcük, the epicenter of the August 17, 1999, earthquake in Turkey. Following the earthquake, several civic networks (social capital's structural components) were established in the city. Some of these networks were established by and for women, while others were more inclusive in terms of gender. The downsides of the networks in Gölcük are examined in another article, which notes that the networks helped perpetuate gender-based assumptions1 and put women in conflict with the state and its public servants, especially the police (Ganapati, forthcoming). This article suggests that social capital in Gölcük offered benefits for women during disaster recovery because these networks were therapeutic in nature, helping women survivors gain empowerment, attain civic consciousness, and avoid the stigma of public assistance.

The next section provides a brief overview of social capital and its gender-based critiques. Then research setting and methods are outlined. This is followed by a discussion of social capital's benefits for women during Gölcük's recovery. The article concludes with lessons for policy makers on how to build social capital during recovery and directions for future research.

Social Capital: Its Dimensions and Gender-Based Critiques

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Social Capital: Its Dimensions and Gender-Based Critiques
  4. Research Setting and Method
  5. Social Capital's Benefits for Women Survivors
  6. Overcoming the Stigma of Public Assistance and Surviving with Dignity
  7. Implications for Policy Makers: Can We Create Social Capital?
  8. Have Enabling Institutions in Place
  9. Conclusion
  10. Acknowledgments
  11. References

Following Putnam, this article defines social capital as the “features of social organization such as networks, norms and social trust that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit” (1995, 67). This definition suggests that social capital has two components (Hooghe and Stolle 2003): (1) structural components such as civic networks that help solve collective problems, and (2) attitudinal components such as norms and values (e.g., trust) that facilitate interpersonal collaboration within these networks.2

There are also two main dimensions of social capital: bonding and bridging (Gittell and Vidal 1998). These dimensions echo Granovetter's (1973) concepts of “strong” or “weak” ties among individuals, respectively. Bonding social capital is a resource that allows individuals to rely on people who are alike, such as family members. Bridging social capital is a resource that allows individuals to rely on people who are less similar, such as colleagues at work.

Despite its popularity across the disciplines, the social capital theory has been criticized on several fronts (see, e.g., Bebbington 2007). An important component of the criticisms relates to issues of gender. The literature on gender and social capital builds mainly on Molyneux, who suggests that gender is “present and absent in troubling ways” in the social capital literature (2002, 177). Gender is present in “troubling ways” because this literature is laden with gender-based assumptions, reinforcing traditional gender roles and assumptions (Molyneux 2002). Such assumptions are most evident in discussions about how social capital forms and how it is maintained or destroyed over time.

The scant literature on social capital formation acknowledges that its attitudinal components form within and are transmitted through one's family (Coleman 1988; Fukuyama 1995; Putnam 2000). The role of family in social capital's formation and maintenance is undeniable. However, a problem arises when the literature attributes the main responsibility for social capital's creation and maintenance within the family to women because of traditional gender roles and assumptions. For instance, women are portrayed as homemakers with free time on their hands (Bourdieu 1986). Partly because of such assumptions, women are considered to be responsible for their children's socialization within the family. They are also expected to be more giving and less individualistic (Molyneux 2002).

Similar assumptions are also visible in the literature on how social capital is destroyed. In Bowling Alone,Putnam (2000) lists women's increasing participation in the labor market and lesser involvement in the family as one of the culprits in social capital's decline in the United States since the 1960s. Similarly, Coleman suggests that social capital depends on adults’“physical presence” and attention to the child within the family unit (1988, 111). These studies do not acknowledge the importance of women's social capital that results from their paid or unpaid work or from their participation in broader political movements (Molyneux 2002).

Gender is also absent in “troubling ways” in the social capital literature (Molyneux 2002), for two reasons. First, women's networks remain largely invisible in the mainstream social capital literature. Studies suggest that women's networks are different from men's networks (Godquin and Quisumbing 2008; Lowndes 2000; Molyneux 2002). Women are more likely to rely on smaller-scale informal networks (e.g., based on kinship or friendship) compared to men. Such informal networks are often ignored by the mainstream social capital literature, which focuses more explicitly on formal networks—the kinds of networks that men may belong to (Edwards 2004). Putnam's study on Italy constitutes an example of such gender bias. Almost three-fourths of the local organizations that he examined in his study were sports clubs, compared with only 1 percent of local organizations that dealt with health and social services, the kinds of organizations that women may belong to (Lowndes 2000).

Second, the mainstream social capital literature pays little attention to intrahousehold relationships of power, assuming harmony within the household (Bebbington 2007; Mayoux 2001). Studies that focus on intrahousehold relationships, however, suggest something else. The microcredit literature highlights that even though microcredit institutions make loans to poor women, the males in their households often take control over these resources and, in some cases, resort to domestic violence toward these women (Rahman 1999).

Gender is also conspicuously absent in the emerging public administration literature on social capital and disasters. Although many scholars have proposed a gendered approach to disasters (e.g., Enarson 1999; Fothergill 2003; Morrow and Enarson 1996; Peek and Fothergill 2008), the link between gender, disaster, and social capital remains little explored in public administration scholarship. This is despite an increasing number of studies on gender and public administration (e.g., Bearfield 2009). This article examines the link between gender, disaster, and social capital within the context of postdisaster recovery by examining the benefits of social capital for women who are affected by disasters. This examination focuses on formal and informal civic networks, social capital's structural components.

Gender is also conspicuously absent in the emerging public administration literature on social capital and disasters.

Research Setting and Method

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Social Capital: Its Dimensions and Gender-Based Critiques
  4. Research Setting and Method
  5. Social Capital's Benefits for Women Survivors
  6. Overcoming the Stigma of Public Assistance and Surviving with Dignity
  7. Implications for Policy Makers: Can We Create Social Capital?
  8. Have Enabling Institutions in Place
  9. Conclusion
  10. Acknowledgments
  11. References

To understand social capital's benefits for women during disaster recovery, this article builds on a qualitative case study of the city of Gölcük, Turkey, located nearly 70 miles from Istanbul. Gölcük, which had a population of 55,790 in 2000 (State Institute of Statistics 2002, 63), was the epicenter of the 7.4-magnitude earthquake that hit Turkey on August 17, 1999. The earthquake killed some 17,480 people and damaged approximately 250,000 housing and business units in the country (PMO-CMC 2000).

Gölcük provides a unique research setting in which to study social capital's consequences for women during recovery because of the severity of the disaster and civic developments that followed it. The city was hit particularly hard by the earthquake. Approximately two-thirds of its housing and business units were damaged by the earthquake, and one-third of the overall death toll from the earthquake (5,383) was in the district that houses the city of Gölcük (PMO-CMC 2000). The extent of destruction in the city was such that it prompted the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects to call Gölcük a “dead city” (UCTEA 2000, 8).

Immediately following the earthquake, Gölcük's residents established several formal and informal civic networks (i.e., social capital's structural components). Civic networks established immediately after disasters “in pursuit of collective goals relevant to actual or potential disasters” are called “emergent” networks (Stallings and Quarantelli 1985, 94). In the case of Gölcük, these emergent networks’ goals ranged from helping the most disadvantaged earthquake victims—women and the poor—to saving the lives of disaster victims and participating in Gölcük's recovery. While some networks were designed exclusively for women (e.g., the FISKOS Women's Cooperative), others were more inclusive in terms of their membership (e.g., the Gölcük Search and Rescue Association). Table 1 lists Gölcük's civic networks included in this study. A majority of these networks are presently inactive for such reasons as leadership or location changes, narrowly defined purpose, intra- and internetwork conflicts, and clashes with the state (Ganapati [2005, 2009] provides detailed discussion on their formation and transformation over time).

Table 1.  Gölcük's Emergent Groups
NameMain PurposeGender FocusSample ActivitiesFormality, Current Status
Gölcük 17 August Association To participate in Gölcük's recovery None, but mostly male membersLobbying of decision makersFormal, Inactive
Gölcük Solidarity Association (GSA; initially called the Association for Protection and Development of Kocaeli-Gölcük and Solidarity with the Disadvantaged)To participate in Gölcük's recovery and to promote solidarity among residentsNone, but mostly female membersFree legal counseling to residentsFormal, Inactive
Kavakli Neighborhood NetworkTo protest the government's eminent domain decisions in the Kavakli neighborhoodNoneLobbying of decision makersInformal, Inactive
Gölcük Search and Rescue Association (GESOTIM)To conduct search and rescueNoneResponding to disastersFormal, Active
Search and Rescue TeamTo conduct search and rescueNoneSearch and rescue trainingFormal (under GSA), Inactive
Civil Defense VolunteersTo conduct search and rescueNoneSearch and rescue trainingInformal, Inactive
Neighborhood Disaster Volunteers AssociationTo increase disaster awareness and conduct search and rescueNoneEducating the public on disastersFormal, Active
FISKOS Women's Cooperative for Dialogue on Environment, Culture, and ManagementTo improve the livelihoods of women survivorsWomenProducing candles to generate income for womenFormal, Inactive
Bulat NetworkTo help disadvantaged women and childrenWomenProviding start-up funds for womenInformal, Active
Gölcük Association for Solidarity with the Disabled PersonsTo provide support to disabled personsNoneJob training programs for the disabledFormal, Active

The author carried out two periods of fieldwork for the study, in 2001–2002 and in 2009. The primary data collection method was in-depth, semistructured interviews with 69 individuals: 40 earthquake survivors, 28 policy makers, and 1 local historian. The earthquake survivors interviewed were active members of the emergent groups. They were identified by reviewing the local newspaper, Gölcük Haber, and by participant observation and the snowball technique. The policy makers interviewed were those who were involved in Gölcük's recovery at the local, district, and central levels. They were identified by visiting the offices that were involved in disaster recovery in Turkey and by the snowball technique. The interviews were concluded upon reaching “theoretical saturation” (Glaser and Strauss 1967), that is, when additional interviews did not add anything new to the knowledge gained from previous interviews. The final sample was quite diverse in terms of demographic characteristics. The ages of the interviewees ranged from 18 to 74. Their educational attainment varied from illiterate to those who had a graduate degree. Some were unemployed and looking for work, while others held high-level government posts (e.g., Gölcük's mayor and district governor). In all, 27 interviewees (18 earthquake survivors and 9 policy makers) were women; several male interviewees were part of civic networks that had an exclusive focus on women's welfare (e.g., the Gölcük Solidarity Association and the Bulat Network).

In addition to the in-depth interviews, participatory site observation and a focus group were conducted in Gölcük. Secondary sources were also reviewed, including national and local newspapers (e.g., Milliyet, Gölcük Haber), laws and regulations, and the minutes of the Turkish Grand National Assembly.

Social Capital's Benefits for Women Survivors

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Social Capital: Its Dimensions and Gender-Based Critiques
  4. Research Setting and Method
  5. Social Capital's Benefits for Women Survivors
  6. Overcoming the Stigma of Public Assistance and Surviving with Dignity
  7. Implications for Policy Makers: Can We Create Social Capital?
  8. Have Enabling Institutions in Place
  9. Conclusion
  10. Acknowledgments
  11. References

The civic networks in Gölcük had significant benefits for women during the disaster recovery. As explained here, these networks were therapeutic in nature, helping women leave behind the earthquake's psychological scars. They also empowered women, helping them attain civic consciousness. Furthermore, they helped women avoid the stigma of public assistance while recovering from the earthquake.

Psychological Rehabilitation

Studies conducted after the August 17 earthquake indicate that women survivors were more likely than men to experience psychological problems, including depression (four to five times more likely) and post-traumatic stress disorder (2.4 to four times more likely) (see, e.g., Başoǧlu et al. 2004). They also exhibited higher degrees of need for psychological and emotional support than men (Kasapoǧlu, Ecevit, and Ecevit 2004). Although men may have underreported their psychological weaknesses—Turkey is a highly patriarchal society—studies conducted elsewhere also report that female gender is a common risk factor for postdisaster psychological problems (e.g., Galea et al. 2008).

Regardless of gender, those who lived through the earthquake in Gölcük experienced deep trauma. The earthquake took place at 3:02 a.m. Those who were lucky enough to escape from their buildings had to survive a night of confusion. Gölcük was pitch dark, as the lights had gone out within seconds of the earthquake. Yet the survivors could hear the voices of those who were wailing for help from underneath the rubble of the collapsed buildings. The voices faded as the days passed, leaving behind the odor of corpses in the August heat. In the words of one female survivor, this “odor” lingered for months on all of her belongings, ranging from her furniture to her soap.

Formal and informal emergent networks were therapeutic for these women survivors, helping them overcome their earthquake-related psychological trauma. The FISKOS Women's Cooperative, which produced candles and tailored goods, was often referred to as an informal “rehabilitation center” by its members’ husbands. In the words of an interviewee, most men thought that the cooperative kept their wives “busy” and prevented them from thinking about the earthquake. A member of the cooperative explained how it had helped her psychologically: “It really helped me a lot … When the production workshops were established, it was like liberation for me … I forgot about the earthquake. [Instead, I started thinking] what kind of candles we can make, what kind of designs. I kept my mind so busy with these [thoughts] … I really overcame my [earthquake] trauma due to the production workshop.”

Members of other emergent networks in Gölcük reported similar benefits of the networks. A member of the Gölcük Solidarity Association (GSA) who was searching for her missing six-year-old daughter, for instance, noted that even going to the association's office made her feel better. When she was there, she felt that she was doing something to find her daughter, as GSA conducted several activities to locate missing persons after the earthquake. She further explained how the association managed to “distract” her from thinking about her daughter: “I was crying continuously. For one year, my tears did not stop. One year! I sleep, I cry, I get up. I could not eat. I reduced to 44 kilograms … No meal could pass through my throat. When I put bread or meal to my mouth, I would wonder if my daughter is hungry and could not eat … After one year, I started to distract myself with the association.”

Empowerment

Turkish women gained political and civil rights equal to those of men soon after the establishment of the Turkish Republic as part of the Westernization efforts of Ataturk, the founder of the republic. They were able to vote in local and national elections by 1930 and 1934, respectively. Despite Turkish women's early “emancipation” in the public sphere, many scholars have been skeptical of their “liberation” in the private sphere (Kandiyoti 1987; Toprak 1994). Turkey remains in many ways a patriarchal society, with clear stereotypes and attitudes toward the role of women (Arat 1989; Erman 2001; Kandiyoti 1988), even after recent women's movements (Arat 2000).

Gender disparities in Turkey continue to exist across the sectors, ranging from education and health care to the workplace (World Bank 2003). Indeed, the 2010 Global Gender Gap Report ranked Turkey 126th among 134 countries in terms of gender inequalities (Haussman, Tyson, and Zahidi 2010). As noted by the World Bank, Turkish women lack a “voice” and “power at the household, community and national levels,” which is “negatively related to empowerment” (2003, 6).

The Gölcük case study suggests that emergent networks empowered the women earthquake survivors in four ways. First, they helped women better express themselves in their households and in their larger social contexts. A member of FISKOS explained women's changing status in these domains after joining the cooperative:

We started expressing ourselves better at home—in the household. Those friends who did not have economic contributions before [the earthquake] started contributing economically to their families. This made them more confident, of course. I think we also became a little bit bitchy … My family and relatives want to have “the old me” back. They always ask where “the old me” is. They say they miss “the old me” since “the new me” is now someone who works outside the home. Not someone who works at home.

Another interviewee from the cooperative added that even those women who were extremely quiet and afraid to speak became so outspoken after joining the cooperative that it became impossible to “silence” them. Not all husbands were happy about the fact that their wives’ eyes were “opened” and that they had the courage to “respond to them.”

Second, the emergent networks helped women gain “civic consciousness,” thereby allowing them to fight for their rights. Whereas many women were dependent on their parents or husbands before the earthquake, such dependence changed after becoming involved in the networks. A single member of GSA explained how she gained civic consciousness after the earthquake:

I used to be a person who would go from school to house and back, from work to home and back. I mean I did not know much. I did not even have the consciousness to fight for my rights. I used to perceive fighting for [my] rights as getting things from my mother and father. I am participating in a civil society initiative for the first time but I saw that if people get together, they could change and transform some things. There is a need to participate. I gained this consciousness with these people [GSA members] after the earthquake.

Whereas many women were dependent on their parents or husbands before the earthquake, such dependence changed after becoming involved in the networks.

Third, Gölcük's emergent networks gave women a chance to celebrate their identities as women. This was especially true for the networks established by and for women. For instance, members of the women's cooperative decided to name their network FISKOS, meaning “murmuring” or “gossiping” in Turkish, because this has a special place in the daily lives of Turkish women. It is an expression of how women communicate in a patriarchal society such as Turkey. A FISKOS member explained the naming of their cooperative as follows:

Murmuring is a style for women to express themselves. Since we live in a patriarchal society, women cannot raise their voice and express themselves. They [men] will say “… Know your place!” and make them [women] sit. But, in a way, women have developed a defense mechanism among themselves. They will do whatever they are going to do with two murmurs [meaning that women will say what they think by lowering their voices rather than by speaking loud] … That's why we said “FISKOS.”

Fourth, emergent networks, especially FISKOS, enabled women to express their dissatisfaction with the gender biases in Turkish society in very subtle ways. Members of the cooperative not only chose the name FISKOS deliberately, but also they chose to form a cooperative deliberately. In their minds, a cooperative gave each and every member equal rights, and therefore it was a call for equality within the broader society. A FISKOS member explained, “The reason behind why we preferred the cooperative was that it was a collective structure and everybody had the same profit share. Everybody had equal rights. Of course, as women, we try to break down the hierarchy. The cooperative was the most suitable structure for this.”

Overcoming the Stigma of Public Assistance and Surviving with Dignity

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Social Capital: Its Dimensions and Gender-Based Critiques
  4. Research Setting and Method
  5. Social Capital's Benefits for Women Survivors
  6. Overcoming the Stigma of Public Assistance and Surviving with Dignity
  7. Implications for Policy Makers: Can We Create Social Capital?
  8. Have Enabling Institutions in Place
  9. Conclusion
  10. Acknowledgments
  11. References

Disaster survivors often need assistance from the government, but sociological studies show that the stigma attached to such need places disaster survivors in a position of feeling embarrassed by asking for help. Fothergill's (2003) seminal article on the 1997 Grand Forks, North Dakota, flood suggests that women survivors who received assistance after the flood experienced the “stigma of charity.” Many of these survivors were accepting charity for the first time in their lives, and the experience of needing assistance was “humiliating and unsettling, because it challenged their views of themselves as white, middle-class, self-sufficient, American women” (Fothergill 2003, 663).

Gölcük residents also needed extensive assistance following the earthquake. Many had lost their jobs or their businesses in the earthquake. According to one interviewee, postearthquake economic conditions made many survivors wonder whether they were lucky to have survived the earthquake. Some even wished that they had lost their lives along with the thousands of others. Women were in an especially disadvantageous position compared to men. Many women, who were housewives before the earthquake and hardly had to seek jobs outside the home, lost their breadwinners in the earthquake. They were now forced to seek employment. Yet there were fewer job opportunities available to them. A member of the informal Bulat Network, which focused on helping women and children after the earthquake, explained the structural limitations on women in Turkey: “Men will do every job. Look. Men can go and work in a toilet. He can work as a waiter, and he can work as a bus attendant. But a woman cannot work as a bus attendant. They will harass her. She cannot work as a waitress in a restaurant. They will harass her. If a woman cleans bathrooms, she cannot enter her house. But men can do any job.”

Unable to find suitable jobs to help support their families, many women survivors needed government assistance. Yet some women refused to ask the state authorities for help. One woman explained how her dignity and pride prevented her from seeking public assistance: “I have dignity and pride. I cannot even go and tell my sibling that I do not have the money to buy bread. I have such habit … I also do not have the strength to deal with some people's [state officials’] snobbishness … I will never go to them and tell them that I am poor or I am hungry. But those without dignity go there.”

Such resistance to seeking public assistance was not surprising given the stigma attached to earthquake survivors, especially by government officials and donors. A public assistance official interviewed in Gölcük, for instance, said that there were “no real poor” in the city and that Gölcük's residents were “lazy” and “quite picky” about the types of jobs they wanted to perform. A government official from the Netherlands, which initially provided financial assistance to the GSA, referred to the earthquake survivors as “beggars.” A GSA member explained how her feelings had been hurt because of such stereotyping: “The governor of a state [from Holland] came [here] and asked, ‘Are the earthquake victims still begging?’ My dignity was hurt … The whole world thinks that these people [earthquake survivors] are parasites. There is no such thing. Some people, yes. Some people are like this [parasites] indeed. But it is not fair to say [these kinds of] things for all of them, which they [the donors] did.”

Gölcük's emergent networks, especially informal aid networks, were instrumental in supporting women survivors who needed help but refused to seek it from the government. They identified such survivors, mobilized, and distributed aid to them. The Bulat Network, for instance, located needy individuals by word of mouth and used the Internet to raise cash (e.g., for start-up funds) or materials (e.g., clothes) that were then distributed to survivors. These individuals did not have to wait in long lines to access government aid. They were able to avoid the stigma of public assistance and keep their pride and dignity largely through the solidarity efforts of Gölcük's aid networks.

Implications for Policy Makers: Can We Create Social Capital?

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Social Capital: Its Dimensions and Gender-Based Critiques
  4. Research Setting and Method
  5. Social Capital's Benefits for Women Survivors
  6. Overcoming the Stigma of Public Assistance and Surviving with Dignity
  7. Implications for Policy Makers: Can We Create Social Capital?
  8. Have Enabling Institutions in Place
  9. Conclusion
  10. Acknowledgments
  11. References

Social capital's benefits for women suggest that policy makers need to seek ways to build and enhance social capital in postdisaster contexts. This is not an easy task, however, partly because we know little about how social capital forms in the first place (Freitag 2006; Ganapati 2009; Khrisna 2002; Ostrom 2000). The scant literature on social capital formation indicates the importance of several factors in creating social capital: face-to-face interaction, local leaders, and state institutions.

Social capital's benefits for women suggest that policy makers need to seek ways to build and enhance social capital in postdisaster contexts.

Enhance Face-to-Face Interaction

The social capital literature suggests that repeated face-to-face interaction helps build trust and reciprocity among individuals, thereby enabling cooperation for mutual benefit (Fukuyama 1995; Putnam and Feldstein 2003). In that sense, policy makers could enhance face-to-face interaction in postdisaster contexts by ensuring proximity among disaster survivors and by promoting public places. Ensuring proximity among the survivors implies keeping disaster survivors in their own communities following disasters rather than dispersing them. Many survivors of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 were given a one-way ticket out of their homes and had no way of returning to their communities. Such policies not only fail to honor disaster survivors’ strong bonds to the places where they live (Ganapati 2009), but also prevent them from having ongoing face-to-face interaction with one another, hindering social capital formation and expansion in disaster-stricken communities.

[P]olicy makers could enhance face-to-face interaction in postdisaster contexts by ensuring proximity among disaster survivors and by promoting public places.

Public places could also help with social capital formation because they are “common spaces for commonplace encounters” (Putnam and Feldstein 2003, 291). While some public places have more potential to contribute to the formation of bonding social capital, other public places have more potential to contribute to the formation of bridging social capital. Public places that are exclusively for women, for instance, could help build bonding social capital. An example of such places is the Women Tents established in Gölcük after the earthquake by the Istanbul-based Women's Solidarity Foundation (Kadinlarla Dayanişma Vakfi or KADAV). These tents required little investment but helped women mingle with one another in a comfortable environment. The tents remained in Gölcük for up to eight months after the earthquake, and they were quite popular among women. A KADAV member explained the reasons for establishing such tents: “You [women who stayed in tents] wash your plates in a bucket, you wash your clothes, you cook, and you need to look after your children, etc. There was unbelievable psychological collapse. [We set up these tents for women] so that they could have some conversation, maybe drink some tea and all, and rejuvenate a little.”

Plazas and parks in central locations could also help enhance face-to-face interaction among people who are not alike, thereby contributing to bridging social capital. There is a need for caution with respect to investments in disaster-stricken communities, however. In Gölcük, some of the interviewees criticized the local government for investing in luxury cafeterias and coffeehouses while a majority of the survivors lived in prefabricated houses, had no food to eat, and had to walk on muddy roads. Therefore, at least until things are back to some acceptable level of normalcy, policy makers should give priority to less costly public places. Small comforts, such as seating places, shade, and water, or art by disaster survivors do not require big investments. Yet they add to the quality of public places.

Mobilize the Potential through Local Leaders

As noted by Khrisna, “social capital represents a potential—a propensity for mutually beneficial collective action. Potential needs to be mobilized, however, and directed toward carefully selected ends” (2002, 163). Local leaders play important roles in mobilizing such potential (Ganapati 2009; Khrisna 2002). Therefore, policy makers could undertake projects in disaster-stricken communities that build leadership capacity, thereby helping people help themselves. They could also strengthen the preexisting social capital and ensure the sustainability of emergent social capital in such communities in the long run.

Leadership-building programs in disaster-stricken communities should have three qualities. First, they should focus not only on how to enhance the broader set of skills discussed in the mainstream leadership literature in general and in the public service administrative leadership literature in particular (e.g., Denhardt and Campbell 2006; Van Wart 2003), but also on a series of competencies that are critically important in the context of a disaster. These competencies include being both decisive and flexible, scanning the environment and planning accordingly, and networking and partnering (Hannah et al. 2009; Kapucu and Van Wart 2008). Although Newman, Guy, and Mastracci (2009) do not specifically discuss “affective” leadership within the context of a disaster, their emphasis on a more humane and caring approach to leadership is relevant for proposed leadership-building programs in disaster-stricken communities, especially in dealing with women survivors, who are disproportionately affected by psychological problems following a disaster.

Second, leadership building programs should be long term because honing leadership skills requires time. Therefore, programs with mentorship components are especially suitable. Programs with formal and informal networking components, such as those promoting federations of networks (Putnam and Feldstein 2003), are equally important for continuous learning. These federations could include women's civic networks in disaster-stricken communities and beyond and allow for information sharing and transfer of lessons from one place to the other.

Third, leadership building programs should include women and be customized to individuals who have leadership potential. In Gölcük, the local leaders who established the networks already had some civic or political experience prior to the earthquake (Ganapati 2009). As a consequence of such experience, they were familiar with the procedures and practices of civic life, which helped them in their efforts to establish the networks. In that sense, leadership building programs in disaster-stricken communities could create space for nonestablished women leaders but could have shorter components for established leaders.

Have Enabling Institutions in Place

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Social Capital: Its Dimensions and Gender-Based Critiques
  4. Research Setting and Method
  5. Social Capital's Benefits for Women Survivors
  6. Overcoming the Stigma of Public Assistance and Surviving with Dignity
  7. Implications for Policy Makers: Can We Create Social Capital?
  8. Have Enabling Institutions in Place
  9. Conclusion
  10. Acknowledgments
  11. References

There is an emerging literature on how state institutions and policies can enable social capital formation. This literature is influenced by North's (1990) work on new institutional economics and Evans's work on state–civil society synergy (1996a, 1996b). It developed partly as a reaction to Putnam's work on Italy (Putnam, Leonardi, and Nanetti 1993), which suggested that creating social capital is difficult in places where it historically has been lacking (the path dependency argument).

Research undertaken since 1993 has shown that state institutions and policies can enable social capital formation. Such enabling institutions and policies relate to the voluntary sector (Evans 1996a, 1996b; Hall 1999), citizen participation and social inclusiveness (Lowndes and Wilson 2001), education (Hall 1999), equality (Kumlin and Rothstein 2005), and local autonomy (Freitag 2006). Putnam also acknowledged the state's role in the formation or destruction of social capital through public policy in his later work (Putnam 1995; Putnam and Feldstein 2003).

Accordingly, there is a need for institutions and policies that are conducive to collective action in postdisaster contexts. These institutions are especially important for social capital's sustainability in the long run. Civic networks in Gölcük indeed emerged despite the Turkish national government's restrictive policies on collective action (e.g., restrictions on associational activity and freedom of the press). However, those that survived over a 10-year period were those that were less restricted by the state or received logistic and political support (e.g., free office space) from local governments. Advocacy organizations that continuously clashed with the state did not survive as long.

Conclusion

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Social Capital: Its Dimensions and Gender-Based Critiques
  4. Research Setting and Method
  5. Social Capital's Benefits for Women Survivors
  6. Overcoming the Stigma of Public Assistance and Surviving with Dignity
  7. Implications for Policy Makers: Can We Create Social Capital?
  8. Have Enabling Institutions in Place
  9. Conclusion
  10. Acknowledgments
  11. References

Even though social capital has made inroads into the public administration literature, little is known about its gender dimensions in the context of a disaster. To fill this gap in the literature, this article has examined social capital's benefits for women disaster survivors. Based on the case of Gölcük, it highlights that the emergent civic networks not only helped women overcome the psychological impacts of the disaster but also empowered them and helped them overcome the stigma of public assistance in Gölcük. It calls for building social capital for women in postdisaster contexts by enabling face-to-face interaction, creating leadership-building programs, and putting in place institutions that facilitate collective action.3

By making women's formal and informal networks more visible in the literature, this study fills an important gap in the social capital literature. It also challenges the traditional gender roles and assumptions in the literature by providing specific examples of women's non-family-based social capital. Finally, by highlighting the benefits of women's emergent social capital in recovery, the study complements earlier studies suggesting that predisaster social capital is important for disaster preparedness, response, mitigation, and recovery (e.g., Kapucu 2006a, 2006b).

This study indicates several directions for future research. First, further research is needed on the downsides of social capital. Despite its potential benefits, social capital may be used for harmful ends, as in the case of the Mafia and gangs (e.g., Gambetta 1993; Rubio 1997). In the context of disasters, predisaster social capital could have its downsides in terms of evacuation (Buckland and Rahman 1999) and housing recovery (Aldrich and Crook 2008). Furthermore, it could help perpetuate gender-based assumptions and put women at odds with the state (Ganapati, forthcoming).

Second, another important research area relates to social capital's emergence and sustainability in the long term. There is a need for studies that examine why social forms in the first place and how it transforms over time (Ostrom 2000), such as Khrisna's (2002) and Ganapati's (2005, 2009) studies on social capital formation and transformation in rural India and in postearthquake Gölcük, respectively. Similar studies in disaster-stricken communities could shed light on how policy makers can ensure the sustainability of predisaster or emergent social capital over a longer period of time.

Third, there is a need for comparative studies that examine social capital's consequences for women. In general, it is difficult to find comparative studies that focus on different communities’ responses to the same disaster event (Tierney, Lindell, and Perry 2001). Yet comparative studies on the same disaster event in Turkey or on other disasters elsewhere may help us better understand social capital's common consequences in recovery.

Although the main purpose of conducting a case study is not to generalize, this study suggests that policy makers need to pay more attention to women's social capital and design more finely grained policies by taking gender into account in the context of a disaster. As shown in the case of Gölcük, social capital can help transform women's vulnerabilities into capabilities during recovery. In that sense, social capital constitutes a unique resource that could help policy makers complement the psychological rehabilitation programs, contribute to civic consciousness, and reach needy but proud individuals in disaster-stricken communities.

This study suggests that policy makers need to pay more attention to women's social capital and design more finely grained policies by taking gender into account in the context of a disaster.

Acknowledgments

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Social Capital: Its Dimensions and Gender-Based Critiques
  4. Research Setting and Method
  5. Social Capital's Benefits for Women Survivors
  6. Overcoming the Stigma of Public Assistance and Surviving with Dignity
  7. Implications for Policy Makers: Can We Create Social Capital?
  8. Have Enabling Institutions in Place
  9. Conclusion
  10. Acknowledgments
  11. References

I would like to thank the Haynes Foundation and the College of Arts and Sciences at Florida International University for partly funding this study and Necmi Kocaman, Inci Bayindir, Şevval Yakut, Fikret Bulat, and Emine Cebeci for their support while doing my fieldwork.

Notes
  • 1

    The networks helped perpetuate gender-based assumptions by limiting women's roles to certain tasks (e.g., first aid and psychological support in search and rescue teams) and allowing the media to depict women in a particular way by honoring media requests to send teary-eyed women to their programs. It was assumed that women are only good for certain tasks (e.g., emotive work versus physical work) and are tearful, traumatized, and weak.

  • 2

    The use of the term “networks” here is different from that in network research in the public administration literature (e.g., Agranoff and McGuire 2001; Morçöl and Wachhaus 2009). In network research, this term refers to “multiorganizational arrangements for solving problems that cannot be achieved, or achieved easily, by single organizations” (Agranoff and McGuire 2001, 296; emphasis added). In the present research, “network” refers to formal (e.g., parent-teacher associations) or informal (e.g., family) arrangements among groups of individuals for solving collective problems.

  • 3

    These suggestions are in line with the findings of network research. Although network research focuses on multiorganizational arrangements, it highlights the importance of face-to-face interaction and leadership (e.g., in the form of a central or focal agency) in promoting collaboration (e.g., LeRoux, Brandenburger, and Pandey 2010; Provan and Milward 1995).

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  3. Social Capital: Its Dimensions and Gender-Based Critiques
  4. Research Setting and Method
  5. Social Capital's Benefits for Women Survivors
  6. Overcoming the Stigma of Public Assistance and Surviving with Dignity
  7. Implications for Policy Makers: Can We Create Social Capital?
  8. Have Enabling Institutions in Place
  9. Conclusion
  10. Acknowledgments
  11. References
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