#7 Thinking Space Seminar Series w/ Dale Dominey-Howes

Wednesday 22 April 2015
4.00 - 5.00pm

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Madsen Conference Room 449, The University of Sydney.


‘the dark passenger’ – reflections on the emotional trauma of conducting post-disaster research

This event is part of the Thinking Space Seminar Series, presented by the School of Geosciences.


This paper acknowledges ‘the [my] dark passenger’ of emotional trauma associated with conducting post-disaster research. Post-disaster research is tightly bounded by ethics and professional codes of conduct requiring us to be vigilant about the impact of our work on our participants. However, as a disaster researcher, I have been affected by vicarious trauma. ‘Direct personal’ is where I experienced trauma associated with witnessing devastation making a professional separation from my objective subjects impossible. ‘Indirect professional’ trauma occurred when PhD students and others under my supervision that I sent to disaster affected places, experienced significant negative emotional responses and trauma as they interviewed their participants. In these situations, I became traumatised by my lack of training and reflected on how the emphasis on the participants came at the expense of the researcher in my care. Little literature exists that focuses on the vicarious trauma experienced by researchers, and their supervisors, working in post-disaster places. In acknowledging and exploring the emotions and vicarious trauma of researchers embedded in landscapes of disaster, it becomes possible for future researchers to pre-empt this phenomenon and to consider ways that they might manage this.

Associate Professor Dominey-Howes is a global leader in natural hazards and disaster risk reduction. His work spans the interface between the human and earth environments/sciences – exploring the characteristics of natural hazards (distributions, frequencies & magnitudes) and their impacts on people, communities and human systems. His work examines human hazard knowledge and perception, action and inaction. His goals are to enhance community resilience; reduce losses from natural disasters; and develop appropriate disaster risk reduction strategies.

For more information on any of the events below, please contact: Billy Haworth: billy.haworth@sydney.edu.au