Disaster Governance on St. Maarten

MSc Thesis Sociology of Development and Change

With the increase in visibility and frequency of disasters, governments have developed more agencies, focussing on managing such disastrous events. These agencies – apparatuses – aim to protect and foster human populations. This governmental concern over the human population is identified by Michel Foucault as biopolitical. The existence of such agencies and accompanied sets of measures does, however, not simply imply that potential impacts of disaster can be reduced. The functioning of these agencies is related to the overall strength of the governance system in which it operates. If an overall governance system is considered weak, as often the case in less-developed countries, then the potential for severe disaster impacts is considerably higher. This thesis therefore highlights, that when analysing the functioning of a disaster management structure in the wake of a disaster, looking into historical forces influencing this structure should be considered. Consequently, this thesis focusses on St. Maarten, which was hit by a major hurricane – named Irma – in 2017. Building on interviews, literature and observations, this thesis argues that a certain form of governmentality on St. Maarten in the aftermath of Irma has led to a situation in which community members have not experienced (much) support from governmental institutions. It is executing a biopolitical response through the development of certain apparatuses, as these classify the population into groups who may or may not receive help. This is eventually contributing to the increase in vulnerable situations on St. Maarten.

Key words: disaster governance, disaster politics, governmentality, biopolitics

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