Disaster, crises,and meaning-making: towards open-ended recovery

Authors: Kasia Mika*, KITLV/Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies
Topics: Hazards, Risks, and Disasters, Hazards and Vulnerability
Keywords: Haiti 2010 earthquake, trauma, disasters, recovery, vulnerability, Caribbean
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 2:40 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Napoleon B3, Sheraton 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The paper examines interrelated notions of processual and accretive trauma—offered by postcolonial studies and environmental humanities—and vulnerability-based approaches to disasters, arguing for open-ended, non-linear notions of recovery. This analysis will be rooted in 2010 Haiti earthquake written survivors’ accounts (Martin 2010; Woolley 2011) and their differentiated experience of faith and belief, sense-losing and sense-(re)making episodes (O’Grady and Orton 2016), that all are part of assigning meaning, coming to terms with, and only sometimes overcoming, the long-term and sudden violence of the 2010 disaster. Where notions of ‘slow violence’ (Nixon 2011), ‘passive hurt’ (Danticat 2011) and the cognate concept of ‘insidious trauma’ (Brown 2008; Craps 2010; 2013) point to the ways in which ‘incremental and accretive’ violence is played out and belatedly manifested ‘across a range of temporal scales’ (Nixon 2011, 2), vulnerability-focused analyses of disasters also stress their extended and complex character (Ball 1975; Glantz 1977) as ‘continuing process[es] of extreme manifestation of day to day situation’ (Lewis 1977, 243). Following an analysis of processual notions of vulnerability and disaster and these survivors’ differentiated consideration of faith in times of unfolding crises, the paper will go on to conceptualize notions of non-linear recovery. Against illusions of an achievable wholeness, equated with the recovery of the pre-disaster past, this vision seeks to transform and improve over the long term (Lewis 1988, 4; Wisner and Kelman 2015), all the while recognizing that even if vulnerabilities could be amended, the personal losses and absences will never fully be alleviated or healed.

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