After Disaster Strikes and Other Stories: The political construction of Typhoon Pablo in insurgency affected communities in Mindanao

Principal Investigator

Dr Ayesha Siddiqi

Research Institution

Royal Holloway University of London

Project Summary

Very little is known about how communities living with conflict experience climatic disasters. The primary objective of this research project is to address this gap in understanding. It does so by looking at local narratives and understandings of people affected by Typhoon Pablo (2012), in the most conflict affected regions of Mindanao, in southern Philippines. The research sheds light on how disasters and conflict interact in the ‘everyday’ to enable a better understanding of the post-disaster political space that helps or impedes recovery.

Based on physical and digital ethnographic research in two barrios, in Mindanao this project politically constructs Typhoon Pablo that devastated the southern Philippines in 2012. This is a region that has also been facing a protracted armed insurgency between the communist and Islamist groups and the state for decades. Though political geography often discusses disasters as a manifestation of state “weakness” that fracture the social contracts between the states and their citizens, allowing insurgent groups to capture this space, research now shows this narrative as being too simplistic. It fails to take into account the complex, haphazard and informal ways in which state-citizen relationships have been forged, invented and reinvented in the postcolonial world. By enabling agents to construct their own story in words and images this project provides a crucial first step “towards a postcolonial disaster studies”.  


This research project is seeking to provide a new direction for disaster and development policy in conflict affected LMICs. Disaster relief and reconstruction policy in conflict-affected states has too often been driven by counterinsurgency imperatives of “winning hearts and minds”. Policies that rest on the simple belief that people whose lives have been devastated by floods, typhoons and earthquakes are likely to be vulnerable to the political and religious messages of aid providing agents. Based on evidence from the ground, this research will provide new insights on this assumption and illustrate the ways in which disaster affected people are able to exercise political agency and autonomy. It will provide policy makers with the evidence and tools for more robust and relevant disaster and development policy for people living with conflict.

Contact Information

For further information, please email Ayesha at