Rising from the Rubble: Emergence of Place-Based Social Capital in Gölcük, Turkey

August 2009 (VOL. 27, NO. 2)

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Although there is emerging literature on social capital and disasters, little is known about the impact of disasters on social capital formation. This paper aims to fill this gap in the literature through a case study of the city of Gölcük in the aftermath of the August 17, 1999 earthquake, which resulted in an official death toll of 17,480 in Turkey. The case study suggests that disasters can redefine disaster victims’ attachment to the place (i.e., their city, neighborhood) and to their fellow residents (i.e., solidarity with other earthquake victims). Local leaders can play an important role in transforming these cognitive elements into structural components of social capital in the form of place-based networks during the disaster recovery process. In Gölcük, local leaders built on their pre-disaster civic and political experience to help disaster victims mobilize toward collective action after the earthquake. They also helped disaster victims find international and domestic donors to support the activities of their networks. Local leaders’ efforts to form the networks came forth despite the lack of enabling state institutions and policies, especially at the central government level. The paper concludes with lessons for policy makers on how they could contribute to place-based social capital formation in disaster stricken communities.