Vulnerability assessments as a political creation: Tsunami management in Portugal

Maartje Pronk, Harro Maat*, Todd A. Crane

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Vulnerability assessments are a cornerstone of contemporary disaster research. This paper shows how research procedures and the presentation of results of vulnerability assessments are politically filtered. Using data from a study of tsunami risk assessment in Portugal, the paper demonstrates that approaches, measurement instruments, and research procedures for evaluating vulnerability are influenced by institutional preferences, lines of communication, or lack thereof, between stakeholder groups, and available technical expertise. The institutional setting and the pattern of stakeholder interactions form a filter, resulting in a particular conceptualisation of vulnerability, affecting its operationalisation via existing methods and technologies and its institutional embedding. The Portuguese case reveals a conceptualisation that is aligned with perceptions prevalent in national government bureaucracies and the exclusion of local stakeholders owing to selected methodologies and assessment procedures. The decisions taken by actors involved in these areas affect how vulnerability is assessed, and ultimately which vulnerability reduction policies will be recommended in the appraisal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)728-747
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Risk management
  • Social mediation
  • Tsunami
  • Vulnerability assessment


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