Universitas Indonesia Conferences, The 8th International Symposium of Journal Antropologi Indonesia

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Dealing with Multiple Hazards: Disaster-Prone Communities on the Slopes of Mt. Merapi During the Pandemic
Muzayin Nazaruddin, Anang Hermawan, Sus Budiharto, Noer Cholik

Last modified: 2022-05-31


This paper explores how communities in disaster-prone areas simultaneously dealt with the Covid-19 outbreak and other natural hazards. It argues that they will socially calculate risks to decide what kind of hazard is more reasonable to deal with and which others should be avoided. This social calculation will involve not only objective hazards assessments, but also other socio-cultural features within and surrounding the given communities. Taking the case of local communities on the slopes of Mt. Merapi, which encountered the pandemic and eruption hazards simultaneously due to increasing volcanic activities, this study finds that the cultural perceptions of the certainty-uncertainty of risks have led to social decision-making on whether to evacuate or stay in their hamlets during the eruptions. Some essential factors, i.e., adaptations, social capital, collective memory, and social trust, have constituted cultural perceptions that volcanic hazards were much more predictable when compared to the pandemic. Further, having no existing adaptation patterns, collective memory, and structural social capital, the locals perceived the Covid-19 outbreak as full of uncertainty. This was exacerbated by a lack of social trust in the government in handling and communicating the pandemic. Dealing with such uncertainty, people relied on culturally-embedded social capital, especially the sambatan, a tradition of voluntarily helping each other based on the reciprocity principle. People have also developed a hybrid understanding to make sense of the pandemic: combining and negotiating several explanations and coping strategies that at first sight seem to be contradictory, i.e., medical-scientific explanations and religious interpretations of the outbreak.


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