[3/25/19] – Cyclone Idai in Mozambique

On March 4, 2019, Cyclone Idai formed off the coast of Mozambique. The storm lasted twelve days, finally dissipating on March 16, 2019. In the aftermath of this disaster, at least 1,000 people are estimated to be dead. Thousands more are still in need of rescue. It is estimated that Beira—the fourth largest city in Mozambique—was almost completely destroyed, leaving nearly half a million people homeless. Rampant flooding and destruction are now affecting approximately one million people across Mozambique and neighboring Zimbabwe and Malawi. This humanitarian crisis is being addressed by officials, including foreign and local government and other not-for-profit entities. Outbreaks of waterborne diseases, limited accessible infrastructure hindering recovery processes, and searches for missing individuals—many of whom are children—are likely forthcoming. All told, this is one of the most devastating weather events in the Southern Hemisphere.

Instructors, click on the link below to download this week’s lecture for use in your classroom. The deck contains a writing prompt, a debate question, as well as other assessment questions.

Download the PowerPoint Lecture Spark for Cyclone Idai in Mozambique

Learning Objectives

LO1: Discuss how weather-related disasters can create a state of anomie for effected peoples.

LO2: Apply multiple sociological theories to understand and explain social phenomena that occur in the wake of weather-related disasters.

LO3: Explain the benefits and consequences of viewing natural disasters from a sociological perspective.




  1. How are social norms effected in the aftermath of a natural disaster? Why might some people cling to social norms in the absence of everything else they know? Why might social sanctions for violations of social norms change? Are there examples of acts considered deviant prior to a natural disaster that are no longer considered deviant in the aftermath of a natural disaster?
  2. What does the response of Mozambique’s citizens and government reveal about the culture of this community? What social structures are most compromised by this cyclone? How might this cyclone influence normal social interactions of residents of Mozambique and surrounding areas? In what ways do you see this cyclone disrupting the social order of Mozambique in the near, and not so near, future?
  3. From a symbolic-interactionist perspective, why might American citizens be more inclined to support people affected by natural disasters as opposed to epidemics like gun violence that claimed nearly 40,000 lives in 2018 alone? How are victims of natural disasters and victims of gun violence defined differently in American society?
  4. From a functionalist perspective, what are the functions of a natural disaster for society? What groups come together, and why? Who benefits from catastrophe in society? Who owns the narrative of the stories being told and images shared with people who are not directly impacted? How might a natural disaster be viewed as dysfunctional for society? What institutions are most affected?
  5. Is it possible to investigate weather-related events from a sociological perspective when the catalyst for this issue is not rooted in anything social? Alternatively, how might events like this raise questions about the human-environment connection among different cultures? Why might some cultures be more prone to addressing issues of concern to the environment than others?

Current Events Quiz

From a functionalist perspective, a sociologist could argue that looting and other forms of deviant behavior likely manifest in the absence of established norms and sanctions to enforce them. This sense of normlessness driving deviant behavior is known as _______.

  1. anomie
  2. standard deviation
  3. criminal intent
  4. malignant behavior

Catastrophic events such as Cyclone Idai are often the catalysts for variations to the norms, values, attitudes, and behaviors of people who are effected. Any major deviation in a group from the standard norms guiding their society is known as _______.

  1. progress
  2. social change
  3. dynamic variance
  4. paradigm realignment

Relief efforts in the aftermath of a natural disaster can be allocated and distributed based in some social hierarchical order. _______ would likely argue that those most likely to see a rapid return to normalcy would be the wealthiest members of society, while the lower class suffers consequences in the short- and long-term.

  1. Emile Durkheim
  2. Ida B. Wells
  3. Arlie Hochschild
  4. Karl Marx


Leave a Reply