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Post-disaster neoliberal normalization in the 1985, 2010 and 2015 Chilean earthquakes

Juan Saavedra (Department of Social Sciences, Universidad del Bío-Bío, Concepción, Chile)
Catalina Alvarado-Cañuta (Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, Universidad de las Américas, Concepción, Chile)

Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Article publication date: 3 January 2023

Issue publication date: 12 July 2023




This article analyzes biopolitical strategies for the recovery of neoliberal normality in urban areas affected by earthquakes in 1985, 2010 and 2015 in Chile (intensity >8.0Mw).


This is a qualitative design research. In total, 198 semi-structured interviews were conducted with seven focus groups. The data were processed in search of discursive threads, guided by the categories contained in the analysis and those arising from the interview transcripts.


Results describe three clusters of discursive threads: disruption of normality, strategies of disaster biopolitics and narratives on the recovery of normality in the medium to long term. In the analyzed cases, disaster biopolitics entered domestic and community spaces to govern life; while the aim was to safeguard lives, it also sought to ensure the continuity of the neoliberal regime. The disaster biopolitics used the exception to normalize, constructing subjectivity and memory around the idea of catastrophes.

Research limitations/implications

The qualitative design can be used in sudden and extreme situations, but it is not possible to anticipate similar results in other kind of disasters (e.g. drought).

Social implications

This study wants to contribute a political vision about disasters by describing the process of restoring order, which follows highly destructive disasters, by demonstrating that in Chile, the biopolitical exception was key to returning to neoliberal normality.


The findings can help improve emergency responses and propose the necessity of political contextualization in post-disaster recovery processes.



Funding: This work was supported by the National Agency of Research and Development, ANID-Chile [Fondecyt no. 11170939].


Saavedra, J. and Alvarado-Cañuta, C. (2023), "Post-disaster neoliberal normalization in the 1985, 2010 and 2015 Chilean earthquakes", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 32 No. 2, pp. 285-297.



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