A former aid/emergency manager, now a medical anthropologist, my research looks at disasters and complex emergencies as social phenomena. Specifically, I’m interested in the epistemology of disaster: how do we know an emergency when we see it?
Catastrophe can be invisible. Epidemics, environmental hazards or famine can unfold imperceptibly. In order to identify to a disaster as it happens, responders balance imperfect and competing data, motivations and imperatives. Often, identification and response happen simultaneously. That means response is never really coherent; action changes constantly in reaction to new data and new developments.
Social research on "seeing crisis" tends to focus on either the politics of hunger and infection or the technical instruments used to detect it: case registers, food prices, a child's arm circumference. I am interested in how institutions combine these different technologies and ways of seeing to address uncertainty, identify large-scale crisis and develop a coherent response.