Disaster Studies is emerging globally as a full-fledged academic discipline. As a field of practice it demands specialisation to meet with the ever-dynamic challenges posed by disasters.
Recognising that academic education and training in the field of disaster management requires a multidisciplinary approach, the Centre for Disaster Management was established in 2006, consolidating nearly sixty years of TISS's committed work in disaster situations and introduced a full-time, taught Masters' programme in Disaster Management in 2007 with 5 specialisations. In 2015, the Centre became a School and proposes 3 Centres and currently offers several programmes.
The School of Disaster Studies endeavours to demonstrate synergies across natural sciences, social sciences and humanities with a focus on building people-centered and participatory approaches towards disaster risk reduction and disaster response. It has carried out systematic work in areas of disaster governance, poverty and exclusion, food security, conflict, human security, public health, pyscho-social care, GIS and logistics in relation to disasters.
We have worked in close coordination and collaboration with the state and other non-governmental agencies in our academic and practical engagement with issues of development, vulnerability and disasters, exploring practices that contribute to dynamic decision making and effective policy formulation and implementation.
Disasters, it is often argued are not simply events, but are socially constructed and the discourse around it is embedded within the larger social and political context. For example, the politics of humanitarian aid has implications for geo-political assertion of power. The School aims at fostering critical thinking in the field of disaster studies and practice and at promoting multidisciplinary approaches. The school houses the following two centres and is working on operationalizing the third centre:
The three centers have a dynamic and iterative relationship each leveraging the strength of the other two in collaborative partnership. Historically, since the management of disasters has primarily been a practitioner’s domain as an emerging field of practice, the boundaries of disaster management have been permeable. Relief workers, engineers, social scientists, medical professionals, geologists, seismologists- all bring their valuable expertise and insights. This has facilitated the growth of disaster management as a substantive area of work. The School currently offers one Masters' programme, one Diploma programme, two certificate programmes and has also introduced a doctoral programme.
The School contributes to the creation of professionals who demonstrate a critical appreciation of the context, act in appropriate ways, and devise suitable strategies and programmes with the idea of preventing disasters or improving preparedness. Besides natural hazards, disaster management in its widest sense, includes aspects of resource use and regional planning, risk and vulnerability analysis, modelling, chemical emergencies, nuclear radiations and biological warfare.
As scientific evidence linking climate change to the intensity and frequency of natural disasters mounts, countries face several developmental, financial and humanitarian challenges. The unequal burden of disaster mortality and economic losses on regions of low development highlights the need to examine cycles of resource degradation, poverty and conflict. These affect human well-being in complex ways. Stresses on water availability, agriculture and ecosystems, the potential for conflict over natural resources, population displacement and migration as the result of sea-level rise, natural hazards or other large-scale biophysical, ecological or social disruptions- are issues that the School is concerned about. The course work, research and field projects conducted by students and faculty members reflect these concerns. The School's work upholds principles of social and environmental justice and is concerned with human and ecological security. It aims at generating critical discourse around the way disasters and their management are conceptualised and theorised.
Clearly, while the concerns of disaster management are focused, the idea of disaster studies is consistently expanding the boundaries of the emergent discipline which is engaged with newer challenges- at theoretical and temporal levels.
Since inception, we have worked in partnership with both international and national bodies such as the IFRC, UNISDR, Geneva, the UNDP, the NDMA, state governments and civil society organsiations and have signed several MOUs with many international universities through which research and academic exchanges are carried out.
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