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Revealing Root Causes: The Disaster Anthropology of Gregory Button


  • Anthony Oliver-Smith

    1. Professor Emeritus, Department of Anthropology, the University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611, and Scientific Committee on Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR), the International Council for Science, 75116 Paris, France;
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ABSTRACT  In the increasing frequency and intensity of disasters over the last quarter century, the work of Gregory Button, whose background is in both journalism and anthropology, has focused on telling the story of affected peoples but also “studying up” to reveal the political and economic interests and structures that unnecessarily render people vulnerable and turn hazards into disasters. These tasks have become more difficult in today's climate of increasing corporate power and, despite rhetoric to the contrary, decreasing transparency. His work clearly demonstrates how vested interests use the strategic deployment, contestation, and sequestration of knowledge and information to disguise and evade culpability, responsibility, and liability. Melding journalism, academic scholarship, and policy analysis, Button provides a critical counterbalance to highly politicized and produced information that seeks to negate, erase, and otherwise diminish the lived experience of disaster-affected peoples.

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