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Volume 21, No. 3. (November 2003)

Special Issue


John Handmer
Guest Editor

Andrew Coghlan
Associate Guest Editor


John Handmer, “Introduction,” pp. 5–8.

Articles by:

Russell R. Dynes, “ Finding Order in Disorder: Continuities in the 9-11 Response,” pp. 9–23.

The events of September 1lth in the United States prompted speculation about the capacity of modern societies to deal with such collective traumas. Here, comparisons are made to past situations, primarily Hamburg after intensive bombing in 1943. Such comparisons indicate immediate and persistent efforts to re-establish the continuity of social life. Such continuity is in contrast to popular images of individual and collective disorganization as well as the presumption that urban areas are especially fragile. After 9/11, effective efforts were frequently attributed to American exceptionalism. While the social sciences have a number of concepts to deal with social disorganization, there are fewer to characterize stability and adaptability. Illustrations of the importance of social capital and organizational resilience in the New York case are offered. By contrast, post 9/11 discussions have often been dominated by the recycling of disaster myths, especially the belief in widespread panic, the necessity of command and control, and the assumption that "people" are the primary problem. Many of those ideas have since become embedded in the implementation of "homeland security."  (AA)

Arthur Oyola-Yemaiel and Jennifer Wilson, “ Terrorism and System Failure: A Revisited Perspective of Current Development Paradigms,” pp. 25–40.


In this article we explore social vulnerability to terrorism based upon current development paradigms and the social complexities derived from our evolutionary process. We argue that highly complex systems are the essence of accelerated development as well as the possible cause of our collapse as a society. System complexity in and of itself could very well be modern societyís principal vulnerability to terrorism with the possible outcome of a generalized failure resulting in a national disaster. To obtain vulnerability reduction we suggest that American society move toward a new stage of development accentuating redundancy and independence of crucial system functions. We recommend that business and resource consolidation and the centralization of power paradigm give way to developmental strategies of decentralized power and dispersed resource allocation. We utilized the Twin Towers incident to analyze our evolutionary developmental process and the vulnerability of our complex society and to revisit the working definition of disaster in the reality of highly complex systems.  (AA)


J. Timmons Roberts and Moona Em, “Fear at Work, Fear at Home: Surveying the New Geography of Dread in America Post 9/11,” pp. 41–55.


We set out to gauge how many workers in the United States felt their jobs were made more dangerous by the terrorist attacks of Fall 2001 and how they were coping with those fears. Dangerous and unhealthy jobs have long been the lot of less educated and poorer workers, but after 9/11 we believed new types of jobs might feel unsafe. We also wanted to know if recent security measures and precautions in workplaces had succeeded in reducing levels of fear. For the broader U.S. population we sought to map some of the main features in the new geography of fear. We conducted a random telephone survey of 399 U.S. residents in March 2002. The study revealed that one in four workers believed their work became more dangerous after 9/11 and that one in three felt their work had become more stressful. The range of occupations and income levels in these groups suggests that 9/11 may have shifted risk up in the stratification system to what were previously considered "clean and safe" white-collar jobs. Compared to other workers, those who believed their jobs became more dangerous after 9/11 significantly more often reported "trying not to think about terrorist attacks" and turning more to their religion. When asked how they coped with new fears, a majority of both groups reported showing their patriotism with flags and talking to others about it. Of all U.S. residents, nearly half (48 percent) believed their area was a likely target for future terrorist attacks. This varied by region of the country. Large numbers reported concern over being in cities, near military facilities, and near nuclear plants or recreation facilities with large numbers of people. Younger Americans were more afraid than those over 65.  (AA)


Ben Wisner, “Tepeyac: Case Study of Institutional and Social Learning Under Stress,” pp. 57–65.


There is an anthropological and sociological literature dealing with emergent organizations in disaster situations. Less is known about the ways in which preexisting organizations learn new skills in order rapidly to be able to provide a new range of services in a postdisaster situation. The case study of Tepeyac, an immigrant workers' rights, social service, and cultural organization serving Hispanics in New York City, provides some preliminary insight into the flexibility of such organization and highlights the potential of other similar organizations as a community resource in disasters elsewhere in the U.S. and perhaps elsewhere in the world.  (AA)


Stephen R. Couch and Barbara A. Wade, “ 'I Want to Barbecue bin Laden': Humor after 9/11,” pp. 67–86.


This paper is a preliminary examination of humor related to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and its aftermath. Data include cartoons, caricatures, songs, video skits, and satirical essays gathered from books, newspapers, and Internet sources. We begin with a short discussion of sociological approaches to humor, noting that humor can be used either to further or to stymie social change. We suggest that theories of Bourdieu and Foucault have something to offer in studying humorís place in social discourse. Next, we examine three themes that emerged in post-9/11 humor: A Just Revenge; The Enemy: Evil, Cowardly, Barbaric, Incompetent; and Insecurity in a Changing World. Also, we briefly consider post-9/11 humor in comparison with humor that followed the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor; World War II; and humor that emerged about the Gulf War. We end by suggesting timing, place, and power are important when studying the role of humor in social discourse.  (AA)


George T. Patterson, “Police Social-Work Collaboration in Response to the World Trade Center Attack,” pp. 87–102.


This paper utilizes the lessons learned from police-social work collaboration in response to the World Trade Center attacks to build capacity for the future of police-social work collaboration in response to mass emergencies and disasters. A collaborative disaster response provided during the early hours and days following the attacks, before the American Red Cross and other agencies were involved, are described. Social workers and other mental health professionals collaborating with law enforcement personnel to provide a disaster response can assist law enforcement agencies with their community service and community policing functions. The benefits and barriers to police-social work collaboration and social work practice roles are discussed as they relate to disaster preparedness, response, recovery, and collaborating effectively with law enforcement personnel.  (AA)

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