Repression Without Resistance: Disaster Responses in Authoritarian Low-Intensity Conflict Settings

Isabelle Desportes

Research output: Types of ThesisDoctoral ThesisInternal

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Based on a total of one year of qualitative fieldwork conducted on drought and flood responses in Ethiopia, Myanmar and Zimbabwe, engaging with state, civil society, community and international humanitarian actors, this PhD thesis confronts the uneasy relationship that disaster responders have with politics. Responding to disasters triggered by natural hazards is a deeply political process, but it is usually presented by practitioners, and sometimes even studied, as an apolitical endeavour. This is especially striking when disasters unfold in authoritarian and politically highly polarised low-intensity conflict (LIC) settings. The thesis details why a predominantly technocratic disaster response emerges, which form it takes, and with which implications. In doing so, it presents the case of the Ethiopian humanitarian theatre, with aid actors wearing, dropping and forgetting their masks; the case of non-state disaster responders socially navigating the Myanmar sea of political, social and humanitarian transitions and tensions to get relief towards ethnic and religious minorities; and the case of powerful actors strategically depoliticising disaster response in Zimbabwe, with less powerful actors rather coerced to do so, and the least powerful, community members, bearing the implications of it in their bodies and minds.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Erasmus University Rotterdam
  • Hilhorst, Thea, Supervisor
  • Van Voorst, Co-supervisor
Award date5 Nov 2020
Place of PublicationThe Hague
Print ISBNs9789064901218
Publication statusPublished - 5 Nov 2020


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