Hierarchies of affectedness: Kizuna, perceptions of loss, and social dynamics in post-3.11 Japan

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The people of Northeast Japan have been praised domestically and internationally for their mutual support and good manners in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Disasters, in short “3.11.” The observation of social cohesion, as propagated by the post-disaster use of the term kizuna (human bonds) in Japan, corresponds with what has been called a disaster utopia - a short period of time when people support each other and seem to be equal in their suffering and loss. Although research suggests that overall crime rates in the disaster-stricken regions went down in 2011, thus representing features of a disaster utopia and kizuna, I argue that the disasters disrupted the social relations of the affected communities. Based on almost two years of ethnographic field research in Northeast Japan, 177 semi-structured interviews, and additional analysis of news material such as newspapers, I propose that the different experiences in 3.11 regarding loss, post-disaster support, and types of trauma resulted in the construction of “hierarchies of affectedness.” While these hierarchies may affect individuals differently, they ultimately impact social relations among disaster victims and determine access to support measures. Investigation into the influence of these hierarchies of affectedness on social dynamics and support is necessary to understand and facilitate long-term social recovery.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101304
JournalInternational Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Dec


  • Disaster utopia
  • Great East Japan Earthquake
  • Kizuna
  • Social cohesion
  • Social disruption
  • Social recovery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Safety Research
  • Geology


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