Rethinking masculinity in disaster situations: Men's reflections of the 2004 tsunami in southern Sri Lanka


Dominelli L (2020) Rethinking masculinity in disaster situations: Men's reflections of the 2004 tsunami in southern Sri Lanka. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 48, Art. No.: 101594.

The role of men in disasters is rarely discussed in depth and research on this topic is scarce. Yet, masculinity is an important dimension of disasters, whether considering men's active roles in disasters, their position within family relations pre- and post-disasters, or during reconstruction. The research project, Internationalising Institutional and Professional Practices conducted in 12 southern Sri Lankan villages sought to understand men's experiences of supporting their families after the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. It highlighted the importance of patriarchal relations and men's roles as providers throughout the disaster cycle. However, the picture is complicated. While most humanitarian aid is aimed at the generic person, a man, men do not have their needs as men specifically addressed during the receipt of humanitarian aid. Men who receive nothing post-disaster can become desperate, and misuse substances such as alcohol and drugs. This creates situations where men fight each other and abuse women and children within intimate relationships because the tsunami has destroyed their livelihoods and nothing has replaced these. In this article, I examine the complexities men navigate to understand their position when seeking to re-establish their connections to family and community life. I conclude that their specific needs as men require targeted interventions throughout all stages of the disaster cycle, and especially during the delivery of humanitarian aid if they are to fulfil their provider and protector roles and be steered away from behaviour that is abusive of close members of their families: wives, children, and other men.

Men; masculinity(ies); Breadwinner/provider; Protector; Humanitarian aid; Disasters; Differentiated disaster experiences; Family relations; Domestic violence; Abusive relations

International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction: Volume 48

FundersEconomic and Social Research Council
Publication date30/09/2020
Publication date online01/04/2020
Date accepted by journal27/03/2020