Cultivating disaster resilience in rural Oklahoma: Community disenfranchisement and relational aspects of social capital

Adam M. Straub, Benjamin J. Gray, Liesel Ashley Ritchie, Duane A. Gill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


In the last two decades, social capital has become a crucial concept in the study of vulnerability and resilience in disaster research. While most of this scholarly attention has focused on the recovery phase of the disaster management cycle, this article focuses on the often neglected phase of disaster preparedness. Using more than 180 in-depth interviews with community members involved in emergency management conducted from 2014 to 2018, we explore the relationship between various forms of social capital in communities across the state of Oklahoma. Here, stakeholder perceptions describe a deteriorating relationship between rural communities and urban centers due to failed expectations of trust and reciprocity. Oklahoma's divisive social arrangement is the historical product of geographic distance, a statewide financial crisis, and conservative economic policy. This collective sense of community disenfranchisement creates social solidarity across rural Oklahoma, paving the way for the formation of informal networks that stitch together resources in order to cultivate resilience. The findings suggest that while these rural communities do become more resilient by forming new inter-community relationships, their insulation from diverse social networks in urban areas makes them more vulnerable. This research enhances understanding of the relational dimensions of social capital. Additionally, it gleans perspective on how emergency management in financially strapped, rural communities use social relationships to navigate economic challenges in a geography under constant threat from a variety of natural hazards.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)105-113
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
StatePublished - Jan 2020
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science


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