Kaniasty gave a colloquium at the Department of Psychology, Georgetown University
(Washington, DC) on April 17, 2015. The major point of Kaniasty’s lecture was
that maintaining strong social
ties in the aftermath of disasters is just as important as rebuilding
infrastructure to help people overcome traumatic events.
The capacity of a collective
to triumph over shared adversities is based on maintaining and augmenting
social cohesion, mutual social support, cooperation, and a sense of belonging to
a valued social group and community. Empirical work with victims of various
disasters strongly suggests that individuals’ functioning in the aftermath of
potentially traumatic life events does not only depend on their own resources
and losses, but on resources and losses of their community.
initially mobilize affected communities into a heroic and altruistic struggle
to fulfill the immediate needs, and to shield victims from an overwhelming
sense of loss. This heroic stage, however, inevitably ceases and may not be
sufficient to conquer slowly evolving deterioration of social relationships
routinely experienced by postdisaster communities. Thus, in the long run,
failure or success in coping with shared trauma depends to a large extent on
One way of deterring lasting negative
psychological consequences of disasters should be through protecting and
maintaining communal resilience defined as an ability to deter insidious
erosion of communal connections in the aftermath of collective upheavals.
Department of Psychology