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Bornstein, L, Lizarralde, G, Gould, K A and Davidson, C (2013) Framing responses to post-earthquake Haiti: How representations of disasters, reconstruction and human settlements shape resilience. International Journal of Disaster Resilience in the Built Environment, 4(01), 43-57.

  • Type: Journal Article
  • Keywords: Disaster response; Disasters; Haiti; Human settlements; Legibility; Plans; Resilience
  • ISBN/ISSN: 1759-5908
  • URL: https://doi.org/10.1108/17595901311298991
  • Abstract:
    Purpose – The aim of this paper is to add a new dimension to urban resilience by exploring how representations of disasters, reconstruction and human settlements are made, and how, by shaping plans and programs, they ultimately influence resilience. Design/methodology/approach – The paper draws on James Scott's notion of “legibility” to ask how different representations simplify complex realities and how they are transformed into plans and programs. The paper first outlines the various broad analytic lens used to examine legibility to portray post-disaster reconstruction, drawing on international literature and policies. The paper then focuses on post-earthquake Haiti and analyzes eight reconstruction plans and reviews design proposals submitted for the Building Back Better Communities program to explore how different stakeholders portrayed the disaster, identified the reconstruction challenges and proposed to address human settlements. Findings – Representations of the disaster, the reconstruction challenge and the housing problem were quite varied. While the plans assumed a very broad view of the reconstruction challenge (one that goes beyond the representations found in the literature), the BBBC program adopted a very narrow view of it (one that the literature condemns for failing to achieve sustainable resilience). Research limitations/implications – The empirical research is exploratory, suggesting an approach that throws a new light on the analysis of plans and programs for improved resilience. Practical implications – The study suggests that the representations that decision makers, institutions and organizations make of the world ultimately establish the framework in which resilience is constructed. Originality/value – The lens of legibility confirms that the expression of different representations makes the world legible in different ways and therefore transforms the way in which resilience can be improved.