Neighbours and Social Capital in the wake of the Christchurch Earthquakes
On the 4th of September 2010 the South Island city of Christchurch, New Zealand was struck by a magnitude 7.1 earthquake. The earthquake caused widespread damage, but no loss of life. In February the following year a smaller, but shallower earthquake occurred, leading to 182 fatalities and further destruction to the city’s infrastructure. This thesis is centred on the narratives of 36 residents of Christchurch city after the earthquakes. Through the lens of social capital theory neighbourhood social networks are examined in the post disaster context. Previous research in this field emphasises how relationships established prior to a disaster enhance recovery. However, in Christchurch the vast majority of participants had minimal contact with their neighbours before the disaster. Here it is suggested that the desire to maintain one’s own, and others, privacy has played a role in this. In the wake of the earthquake neighbours were almost forced to help other neighbours, and relationships developed through bonding over joint recovery tasks. The longevity of such relationships is questionable; 10 months after the initial earthquake participants reported a decline in community engagement and maintaining privacy was again reinforced as a social norm. This research argues that although the forms of social capital present in the residents’ relationships changed, the bonds created during the disaster period may be stored as a kind of reserve in the form of ‘weak-ties’, which could be called upon in future times of need.
Advisor: Rawlings, Gregory Edward
Degree Name: Master of Arts
Degree Discipline: Anthropology and Archaeology
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: social capital; Christchurch earthquake; Darfield earthquake; Neighbourhood connections; Disaster anthropology
Research Type: Thesis