Typhoon disaster politics in Asian history

As climate-related disasters grow more threatening into the 21st century, the IPCC has urged scholars to study how nation-states can best protect their citizens against them. Disaster management belongs to the larger field of climate change governance. This project reconstructs the history of national thought and action on one type of disaster – the typhoon – in one region of the world – Asia – for the entire 20th century. More than 90% of the 1.2 million who have died worldwide from typhoons in that century died in Asia. Yet Asian nation-states have evolved in different ways over that time. While none became models of ecological virtue, some are now better at protecting people than others. What can a history of Asian adaptive practices tell us about alternative climate change governance approaches into the Anthropocene?

Using a comparative state-in-society approach, the project seeks to explain the diversity of adaptation trajectories in modern Japan, India, and the Philippines. Key variable is the phenomenological notion of “distance”. Political outcomes are shaped by the geographical distance separating typhoon disaster zones from national power centres. But also by the cultural, class, and institutional distances separating disaster victims from those centres. An additional chapter focuses on the political role scientific discourse about typhoons has played over time.

Public debate about climate change today is preoccupied with the nature and impact of climate-related events, and with the norms that ought to guide climate change governance. Yet today´s widespread climate scepticism suggests that such considerations alone will not do enough to move the dial. This project contributes to more recent scholarly endeavours to shift the debate towards the relations of power that have shaped the way nations learn from climate-related disasters.

Image: Philippines – Manila – typhoon photo 1882.png
Emilio Redondo, El imaginario colonial. Fotografía en Filipinas durante el periodo español, Nr6, December 2006, p38
(http://www.seacex.es/documentos/imag_colonial_06_manila.pdf – retrieved via www.archive.org)

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Governance of Climate Change Adaptation

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