Social Time and Disaster

August 2013 (VOL. 31, NO. 2)

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Time permeates the disaster process. Yet, few scholars have integrated various notions of time in their disaster studies. In this paper, I introduce the ideas of event time, clock and calendar time, social time, and rhythm of life within the context of the pre-impact, impact, and post-impact phases. Simply, day-to-day life in industrialized society is based upon a series of schedules, calendars and routines on a daily, weekly, and yearly basis. Events that we call disasters and catastrophes upset our normal rhythm of life, creating degrees of social disruption from the individual up through the community units of analysis. Social units in impacted areas move from clock and calendar time (doing what is scheduled) to event time (doing what is needed now) when disaster strikes. The process of recovery is reflected in attempts to reestablish these same (or similar) clock and calendar time patterns as before the disaster.