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  • Author or Editor: Helle Rydstrom x
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Author: Helle Rydstrom

This article explores crisis as social dynamics spurred by events that not only disrupt the normal order of things, but also transmute into crisis processes that generate persisting hardship and problems of the ordinary. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in the industrial zones of Northern Vietnam, the article highlights the ways in which women workers manage crisis as an underlying condition of daily life. Capturing the heterogeneity and volatility of crisis means to unravel the modalities, intensities and temporalities by which a specific crisis is composed, and to identify how it interlocks with socio-economic crisis antecedents, such as gender and class. While crisis takes different shapes and undergoes various phases, a crisis tends to entangle itself with already-existing crises, fuelling or even exacerbating those, while fostering crises entanglements that impose difficulties and harm upon lifeworlds. The differentiated ways in which particular social groups can mitigate crisis challenges and build social resilience depend on ‘horizons of coping’, which inform the scales and impacts of crises entanglements. Thus, crisis studies direct our attention towards human precariousness and societal inequalities, as well as the ways in which crises entanglements are counteracted, closed, navigated or endured in specific ethnographic contexts.

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In the world we live in today, the presence and claims of crisis abound – from climate change, financial and political crisis to depression, livelihoods and personal security crisis. There is a challenge to studying crisis due to the ways in which crisis as a notion, condition and experience refers to and operates at various societal levels. Further, different kinds of crisis can overlap and intersect with each other, and act as precursors or consequences of other crises, in what can be thought of as inter-crisis relations or chains of crises. This article makes an enquiry into how to develop more adequate analytical tools for understanding crisis as a multidimensional phenomenon. We ask how crisis can be conceptualised and what the analytical potentials of a distinct crisis perspective might be? In this article we suggest a multi- and interdisciplinary approach to bridge between traditionally separated realms. Our ambition is to present a case for the development of Interdisciplinary Crisis Studies as a field of scholarly enquiry, which allows for new perspectives on data collection and analysis. Using the cases of, first, crisis and security and, second, crisis and climate, conflict and migration, we illustrate how studying and intervening in crises requires non-linear approaches which connect across disciplines to develop more comprehensive, interdisciplinary understandings of societal problems and better solutions. In concluding the paper, we assert that key features of Interdisciplinary Crisis Studies must include (1) temporality, spatiality and scale; (2) multi-layeredness, processuality and contradictions; and (3) gender, intersectionality and social inequalities.

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