Sociology of catastrophes and cultural traumas (2015/2016)

Course code
Name of lecturer
Lorenzo Migliorati
Lorenzo Migliorati
Number of ECTS credits allocated
Academic sector
Language of instruction
1° periodo lezioni - LM-62 dal Oct 29, 2015 al Dec 16, 2015.

Lesson timetable

1° periodo lezioni - LM-62
Day Time Type Place Note
Thursday 1:30 PM - 3:30 PM lesson Office Studio from Oct 29, 2015  to Dec 3, 2015
Friday 3:30 PM - 7:30 PM lesson Lecture Hall Trabucchi from Oct 30, 2015  to Dec 4, 2015

Learning outcomes

The aim of this course is to explore a number of social, organizational and cultural mechanisms which lie behind the making sense of and constructing the meaning of disasters in the heart of the communities hit by them. The principal of these mechanisms are the cultural and symbolic meanings which social groups assign to catastrophes and the consequences their arrival can lead to regarding the social identity of the groups’ members.
A number of crucial areas for the sociological analysis of disasters will be examined in depth:
a. Identity: the implications and consequences which the occurrence of unexpected events generates concerning the sense of continuity of the individual self and social groups;
b. Risk: we will examine the issue of risk from macrosocial, microsocial and cultural perspectives;
c. Disaster: we will examine the organizational dynamics governing understanding of the phenomena and events which deeply affect individual and social identities;
d. Trauma: we will further our understanding of the idea of trauma, in particular cultural trauma, by which we mean the representation assigned by individuals and groups to any events important enough to shake their sense of identity.

A civil defence worker with sufficient professional training should have not only technical capabilities but also cultural and sociological awareness in order to deal with the more strictly social consequences of disasters as well as the practical ones. The former are less visible, therefore tend to be underestimated although they are the least simple to deal with. On the other hand, however, they are also those which plant the most lasting consequences in the humus of the social group and those which are most at risk of leading to crisis.
Students on this course will be expected to be familiar with these issues and their more cultural and social implications and to demonstrate their ability to discuss them critically and apply them to specific contexts, using the case studies which will be discussed during the course.



Alexander J. (2006), La costruzione del male. Dall’Olocausto all’11 settembre, Il Mulino, Bologna;
Lupton D. (2003, Il rischio. Percezioni, simboli, culture;
Migliorati L. (2006), Rischio, una parola pericolosa. Uno studio sulla funzione sociale del rischio, QuiEdit, Verona;

Research Material

Alexander J. C. et al. (2004), Cultural Trauma and Collective Identity, University of California Press, Oakland;
Turner B. A. e Pidgeon N. F. (2001), Disastri: dinamiche organizzative e responsabilità umane, Edizioni di Comunità, Torino.
Walter F. (2009), Catastrofi. Una storia culturale, Colla Editore, Vicenza.

Assessment methods and criteria

Oral examination