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Anthropology of Disasters

Research school for Ph.D. and M.Phil. students of German and Pakistani Universities

March 19 – 30, 2012, Karakorum International University, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

Funded by the German Federal Foreign Office and the DAAD


The study of natural disasters is a field of growing importance within social and cultural anthropology. Around the world a great number of people are hit by catastrophic events like floods, earthquakes, droughts, storms, or tsunamis; they have to prepare for such events and cope with their consequences. Anthropologists study how humans conceive of and deal with disasters, how disasters affect social worlds and every-day life.

The research school brings together students from Pakistani and German universities (ten from each country) to present and discuss their research projects. Projects to be presented at the research school need not focus on Pakistan; case studies from other parts of the world are most welcome.


Programme: Workshop and excursion

The programme includes a workshop of five days duration held at Karakorum International University in Gilgit (March 19-23, 2012) and an excursion to Hunza and Gojal that examines the consequences of the Attabad landslide (March 25-30, 2012).

The workshop consists of morning and afternoon sessions. In the morning session, the faculty of the research school will give an input, followed by discussion. In the afternoon session, the students will give presentations of their research projects. The five days will be structured along the following topics:

• Introduction/directions in the anthropology of disasters

• Cultural interpretations of disasters

• Disasters and gender relations

• Politics of disasters

• Anthropology and disaster management

The excursion studies the consequences of a gigantic landslide that hit Attabad village in Hunza on 4 January, 2010. The landslide destroyed the Karakorum Highway over a length of more than one kilometre and blocks the flow of the Hunza River. The damned river became a lake of almost 30 kilometres length which inundated several villages and cuts the area of Upper Hunza (Gojal) off from Pakistan. During the excursion we will meet affected people from Attabad at Altit (Central Hunza) and visit the village of Gulmit in Gojal to learn about the manifold issues connected with the disaster.

Flooded part of village Gulmit in Gojal

(A flooded part of village Gulmit in Gojal)

Gilgit is situated in the high mountains of the Karakorum. The town can be reached from Pakistan’s capital Islamabad by air and by road. In consequence of the high mountain environment, conditions for travel are sometimes difficult. The road may be blocked and flights can be suspended due to bad weather. To ensure timely arrival in Gilgit and, after the programme, return to Islamabad, the planned stay of 20 days in Pakistan (i.e. from March 16 to April 4) allows for a few days of leeway. The programme of the Research School lasts only eleven days only, including one day break between the workshop and the excursion.


Faculty of the research school:

Prof. Dr. Azam Chaudhary, National Institute of Pakistan Studies, Quaid-I-Azam University, Islamabad

• Roland Hansen, Head of Asia Desk, Malteser International, Cologne

Prof. Dr. Ute Luig, Dept. of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Freie Universität Berlin

Prof. Dr. Martin Sökefeld, Dept. of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich (principal organiser)

Dr. Emma Varley, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Lahore University of Management and Science

The research school is jointly organized by the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, LMU Munich, the National Institute of Pakistan Studies, Quaid-I-Azam University, Islamabad, and the Faculty of Social Sciences, Karakorum International University, Gilgit, Gilgit-Baltistan. The Research School is funded by the German Federal Foreign Office and the DAAD – German Academic Exchange Service – in a programme to promote German-Pakistani research cooperation.


Terms of the scholarship

Ph.D. students from German universities who are selected to participate in the Research School will receive the following funding: 575,00 Euro as a contribution to international travel plus a daily allowance of 44,00 Euro in Pakistan. As a stay of 20 days in Pakistan is planned, this amounts to 880,00 Euro. Participants have to meet all their expenses (airfare, visa fees, vaccinations, health insurance, transport within Pakistan, accommodation and food) from this money; there will be no additional funding by the DAAD.

The Research School is subject to security conditions in Pakistan. In case of serious a travel warning issued by the German Federal Foreign Office the Research School may be cancelled.

All participants will be required to sign a document in which they declare that they have taken out an international health insurance, that they will behave according to local cultural conventions (i.e. decent clothing, no alcohol or other drugs) and that they will follow the advice of the faculty of the research school.


Eligibility and applications

Ph.D. students of social anthropology (or neighbouring disciplines) at universities in Germany who are engaged in ongoing empirical research about (“natural”) disasters may apply for participation (students from Pakistani universities will be selected separately). Research projects need not focus on disasters in Pakistan; case studies from other parts of the world are most welcome.

Applications have to include cover letter explaining the motivation to join the research school, an outline of the research project to be presented (3-4 pages), a CV, a copy of the last academic degree, and names and contact details of two referees. Applications should be sent by email to

Deadline for applications: December 15, 2011.