Journal of Social and Economic Development

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 200–222 | Cite as

The social construction of gendered vulnerability to tsunami disaster: the case of coastal Sri Lanka

  • Pradeep Kumar ParidaEmail author
Research Paper


Drawing up on a qualitative research from the Hambantota District of southern Sri Lanka that experienced a devastating tsunami [a tsunami, usually associated with earthquakes, is also called as “seismic sea waves”. Other than earthquakes, tsunami can be generated by volcanic eruptions, landslides, and underwater explosions. In most cases, the water above the deformed area is displaced from its equilibrium position due to the tectonic earthquakes beneath the sea or ocean. In 1963, the term “tsunami” was adopted by the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG) conference to explain these phenomena, and it has remained in general use ever since. Also see, Fukao (J Geophys Res 84(B5):2303–2314, 1979)] in 2004, this paper sets out to explore the social constructions of gendered vulnerability. A qualitative method is used here to enhance the likelihood of women’s own experiences and observations regarding the impact of the tsunami. Grounded in a combination of social vulnerability, feminist political ecology and gender and development perspective, this study demonstrates that women are “social, economic and political actors” in the social crisis arising out of the tsunami disaster. Those women, who were previously on the brink of miserable conditions, and who lived with every day adversity are the hardest hit and least able to recover. In the conclusion, it is argued that women as a social group are differentially exposed and also diversely resilient in the face of the tsunami depending upon their position in the stratification system.


Gendered vulnerability Gender and development Tsunami Sociology of disasters Sri Lanka 



I am immensely indebted to the tsunami survivors, the participants, and local field researchers for their help to carry out this study. I thank the anonymous referee for her/his constructive comments.


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Copyright information

© Institute for Social and Economic Change 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyPondicherry UniversityPuducherryIndia

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