Tenth Anniversary of the Sichuan disaster: Insight into rebuilding families from the Department of Social Sciences

  • Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Saturday 12 May marks the tenth anniversary of the Sichuan 2008 earthquake, one of the largest earthquakes in human history in terms of socioeconomic losses. Dr Alison Lamont from the Department of Social Sciences has insight into how rebuilding families aids in disaster reconstruction.

The Sichuan earthquake in May 2008 was the strongest earthquake to hit China since 1950. 87,150 people were either killed or missing and 4,800,000 people were left homeless.

Dr Alison Lamont said “My research has looked at state policies at the central and local level of government which were aimed at encouraging people bereaved by the earthquake to rebuild a nuclear family unit of wife, husband, and child. For example, policies funded bereaved parents to have another child if their child died in the earthquake, and adults who lost a spouse were encouraged to remarry in spectacular group wedding ceremonies.

“In Chinese political discourse, family is talked about as a ‘basic cell' of society. By supporting the ‘reconstruction’ (to use the state media's terminology) of nuclear families, the Chinese state media depicted these policies as strategies for people to move on from the catastrophe and to re-establish social stability.”

Dr Alison Lamont is currently writing a book, due in 2019, called Finding Normal: Rebuilding Family after the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake. It will bring new insights to the disaster. It addresses the gap in family research both by exploring how the contemporary Chinese state thinks of families as political units, and by looking at the family as a key institution for recovery in the aftermath of disasters.

The Department of Social Sciences offers outstanding undergraduate and postgraduate courses in sociology, criminology, human rights, and law. The active research team have made ground-breaking impact on society in many areas including human rights and equality, migration and citizenship, and international relations.