, Volume 73, Issue 2, pp 805-828
Date: 05 Mar 2014

Expecting the unexpected: field research in post-disaster settings

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access

Abstract

The purpose of this article was to examine field research after disasters by focusing on fieldwork challenges in post-disaster research settings. We describe and evaluate post-disaster fieldwork based on three separate research projects: A study of land use change adaptation strategies following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami; a study of long-term housing recovery following the 2001 Gujarat Earthquake in India; and a study of the role of social capital in shelter recovery following the 2010 Haiti Earthquake. The main findings of this study deal with some of the unique set of challenges that accompanies fieldwork in post-disaster settings. Our findings indicate six aspects that researchers might consider prior to undertaking fieldwork in a disaster setting: the critical role of language, logistics of transport and living accommodation, methodological matters, the researcher’s position in the field (i.e., gender, ethnicity), fieldwork blues and ethical concerns. Potential solutions to these challenges include understanding the target community prior to embarking on fieldwork, having flexibility in the field to deal with unexpected issues and problems, planning ahead for institutional review board approvals, forming research collaborations and having strategies in place to manage stress in the field.