Recognition, attunement and wellbeing: observations from a post-disaster city

Authors: David Conradson*, University of Canterbury
Topics: Social Geography, Hazards, Risks, and Disasters, Hazards and Vulnerability
Keywords: wellbeing, recognition, attunement, post-disaster city
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Empire Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Geographical research on wellbeing has deepened our understanding of how the social, economic and built dimensions of local environments shape quality of life at the individual, household and community scales. Here I extend these conversations by considering the significance of recognition and attunement for emplaced well-being, drawing on conceptual resources from emotional geographies and social psychoanalytic thought. The empirical basis for my observations is Christchurch, New Zealand, a city recovering from a series of devastating earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. I consider three aspects of recovery in which recognition and attunement – or rather the lack of it – have had marked impacts for individual, household and community wellbeing. I first examine the degree to which insurance companies have recognised the hardship of affected homeowners and addressed their claims in a fair and timely manner. Second, I consider whether the state’s process of closing certain schools, as part of a broader post-quake educational re-organisation, has sufficiently recognised the multi-generational attachments to particular schools in some communities. Third, I consider the degree to which external advisors have adequately recognised and attuned to post-quake distress in Christchurch, noting that while ‘distance’ from a situation may afford perspective that it also carries the risk of gross insensitivity. These examples demonstrate that recognition and attunement matter profoundly in the uneven processes of post-disaster recovery, while also highlighting how they do so. I conclude by suggesting that recognition and attunement should be given greater attention in geographical accounts of wellbeing.

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