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Past Vulnerability Conference 2013


Volcanic eruptions and human
vulnerability in traditional
societies past and present

An international conference

Conference remit

Studying the impact of volcanic eruptions on traditional human societies in the deep and recent past as well as the present is a significant and pressing challenge. Yet, volcanic events are a demonstrable part of the human past and can act as a useful analytical mirror that reflects past vulnerabilities. If a given eruption can be treated as a ‘time zero’, we indeed could use it as methodological hinge allowing us to see both into the pre-eruption past and the post-eruption future of the societies affected. Such an approach to studying past societies potentially reveals important and otherwise hidden or obscure aspects about past societies and their interaction with the environment. The workshop will try to address the following as well as other emerging issues:

  • Are volcanic eruptions useful analytical devices for studying the past?
  • What could be considered ‘best practice’ for documenting the ecological, economic, social, and religious effects of eruptions, in deep time, the recent past as well as the present?
  • Can we identify whether post-eruption social change – if it can be documented – is driven by mechanistic relations inherent in the affected societies socio-economic systems or are social dynamics and tensions hidden prior to the eruption driving the observed changes?
  • What are the determinants of vulnerability and how can we measure them?
  • Last, but not least, can we use our insights into past vulnerability and the effects of volcanic events to predict and mitigate the effects of current and future eruptions on such societies?

This workshop is hosted by LaPaDiS, the Laboratory for Past Disaster Science and funded by the Danish Agency for Science & Innovation; it places theoretical, methodological and empirical questions of past vulnerability centre stage. It is our aim to bring together leading scholars from all the fields concerned with this issue, and to discuss volcanic vulnerability and impacts on past peoples from interdisciplinary humanistic, social science and volcanological perspectives.