Introduction: Why Vulnerability Still Matters

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Book Chapter

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We think vulnerability still matters or, at least, we think it matters to ask the question of whether it still matters. Vulnerability has been the key concept of disaster studies for a long time. What may be dubbed the ‘iron law’ of disaster studies stipulates that disasters cannot be equated to the hazard (Wisner et al. 2012), but are the outcome of hazards encountering vulnerability, mitigated by response capacities (Wisner et al. 2004). Whether a disaster unfolds as a consequence of an earthquake, for example, depends on poverty levels in the population and the state of the built environment (Kelman 2020; Wisner et al. 2012). The power of the concept of vulnerability has been that it explains the differentiated impact of hazards and highlights the socially constructed nature of vulnerability – and hence of disasters – as produced by politics, economic processes, and social exclusion (Bankoff et al. 2004).