Stories from the frontlines: De-colonising the disaster-conflict space

Authors: Ayesha Siddiqi*, Royal Holloway, University of London
Topics: Hazards, Risks, and Disasters
Keywords: disasters, social contract, conflict, Philippines
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Bayside B, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Writing about political failure in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, an American scholar wrote “when the levees broke, the contract of American citizenship failed”. In failing to provide a minimum level of security to its disaster affected citizens, states are believed to have fractured a social contract in the aftermath of a disaster. This framework for analysis built around a state-citizen relationship defined by a social contract has often been applied somewhat uncritically to study postcolonial states with more complex and turbulent political histories. The mainstream argument suggests that in this post-disaster moment when the state-citizenship is troubled, rebel and insurgent group try to reach out to affected people and gain support

Aid interventions in the aftermath of disasters in conflict-affected areas often assume ‘state failure’ and a need to use disaster rescue, relief and rehabilitation activities to counter the growing influence of insurgent groups. Yet empirical evidence from the ground suggests that there is a need deconstruct and contexualise these narratives and move “towards a postcolonial disaster studies”. This paper will present findings from the frontlines, Mindanao in southern Philippines a region that has been the site of one of Asia’s longest lasting communist insurgencies. It will illustrate the ways in which the lived experience of disasters amidst conflict and insecurity in the Global South is more complicated than social contract frameworks suggest.

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