The paradox of community involvement: rebuilding Minamisanriku

Wesley Cheek*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to identify the barriers to community participation in post-disaster reconstruction in Minamisanriku, Japan. Design/methodology/approach: This paper utilizes the extended case method. 31 in-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with local residents as well as 15 in-depth, semi-structured interviews with professionals working on reconstruction efforts. Multiple site visits were made to conduct participant observation and ethnographic research. The data from these interviews and fieldwork were triangulated with archival research. Findings: The results from this research show that at least six major barriers to community participation in post-disaster reconstruction were present in Minamisanriku. These barriers were: predetermined tsunami risk levels, a disaster reconstruction menu, existing patterns of government, construction of seawalls, an existing lack of participation and administrative mergers. These barriers were not a product of the disaster event itself, but rather of the pre-existing conditions in Minamisanriku, and Japan in general. Originality/value: This study pinpoints the actually existing barriers to the worldwide call for participatory measures and community involvement in post-disaster reconstruction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)893-907
Number of pages15
JournalDisaster Prevention and Management: An International Journal
Issue number6
Early online date23 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2020


  • Community participation
  • Extended case method
  • Japan
  • Minamisanriku
  • Post-disaster reconstruction
  • Sendai framework


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