Paper: How expert new media depoliticize disasters involving Indigenous peoples

Paper details

Paper authors Anuszka Mosurska
In panel on Depoliticizing humanitarian action: motives, practices, consequences
Paper presenter(s) will be presenting In-Person / Online


Attempts to shift the ways disasters have traditionally been managed away from authoritarian, top-down approaches toward more bottom-up and inclusive processes involve viewpoints from marginalized groups. Therefore, there have been calls for greater inclusion of Indigenous peoples in disaster management. In theory, this suggests a shift in power structures, where the role of experts is contested. However, in popular imagination Indigenous peoples are often misrepresented, for instance through tropes of Indigenous peoples as custodians of the environment or especially vulnerable to environmental change. These matter because they can result in policies and practices in disaster risk reduction that do not capture the complex realities of Indigenous peoples’ lives. To understand these. we present a critical discourse analysis of the news media from 2015-2020 focusing on how Indigenous peoples in disasters are represented. We find a principal framing of disasters as natural phenomena that are addressed through humanitarianism and technocratic interventions, which are justified by framing governments and NGOs as caring for Indigenous peoples. This renders Indigenous peoples helpless and depoliticizes disasters. However, we also identify weaker, competing discourses that focus on systems of oppression and self-determination. These frame disasters as political by discussing the role of colonialism in disaster creation.



Anuszka Mosurska