While mulling over class discussion and what question I was ultimately trying to answer in conducting research and producing my thesis, I returned to the extremely helpful “XYZ” sentence.
During our exercise in class I came up with:
I am writing about the Saltville Disaster of 1924,
because I want to find out how this particular disaster impacted a community,
so that I can help others understand how disasters shape human environments and additionally, why some socioeconomic groups are more vulnerable to disaster than others.
***At the point of conducting this exercise, I was not entirely sure if the Saltville disaster was the one I was definitely going with. To be perfectly honest, I am still not entirely sure, as there is very little literature to be found on the topic. I am currently trying to find newspapers on this particular disaster (and a few others) to make the final decision on which disaster I will research.***
However, regardless of the disaster, parts “y” and “z” of my sentence remain the same. The reason I want to study disasters is to discover the ways in which these events transformed the communities in which they occurred. What businesses, residences, or infrastructure was damaged or destroyed? How did the community respond in the wake of the disaster?
Additionally, I want to analyze the vulnerability of the community that was affected—who was most vulnerable? Was a certain socioeconomic or racial group impacted disproportionately by the event, and if so, why? What can the vulnerability of individuals or groups of people within this event reveal about a larger trend of vulnerability to disaster in the United States?
So, after much brainstorming an a few more attempts at “XYZ” sentences, I believe my first effort at my research question consists of two components:
How did the __(name)__ disaster of _(year)_ transform the community of _(area in which disaster occurred)_? Additionally, who was most susceptible to this event and what contributed to their vulnerability?
In the case of the Saltville Disaster of 1924, I would want to know how the breaking of the muck dam and the subsequent flood transformed the Saltville community. What buildings were destroyed? Who were the 19 people killed, and what made them especially vulnerable to this disaster?
This research question is significant for a number of reasons. First, humans all over the earth have been impacted by natural disasters throughout history. However, human manipulation on the environment creates the potential and often the systems that result in additional disasters. In the event of both natural and unnatural disasters, certain socioeconomic or racial groups have borne the brunt of the physical or financial damage. In events such as the Saltville Disaster, it is important to consider the impact of human action as well as those who paid the heaviest cost. I believe that seemingly isolated disasters such as these are actually part of a larger disaster culture that exists in the United States (and perhaps elsewhere) in which human action often exacerbates or causes disasters, and in which certain groups are more susceptible than others to the destruction.
Hopefully I will finalize the specific disaster I will focus on very soon. I definitely recognize the necessity of settling on a topic early so that I am able to create a sufficient proposal by the end of the semester. That being said, I also do not want to settle on a disaster that is not “manageable”, and therefore have been moving forward with research on a number of disasters while meanwhile collecting secondary sources that could easily relate to the topic of disaster studies or be utilized in whichever disaster I choose.