Transformation as lived experience: conflicting pathways of post-disaster political re-entrenchment and resistance in the Andaman Islands

Authors: Sophie Blackburn*, Oxford Brookes University
Topics: Hazards, Risks, and Disasters, Development, Political Geography
Keywords: Disaster, transformation, agency, India, development, everyday, politics
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2020
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Governors Square 15, Sheraton, Concourse Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


There is frequent emphasis in adaptation and sustainability scholarship on system-transitions approaches to transformation. However, such a priority often obscures the power relations, politics and vested interests that either present obstacles or pathways to progressive social-political change (Pelling and Manuel-Navarrete 2011). Those politics are navigated, reproduced, resisted and lived in the everyday - and hence greater attention is needed to the everyday politics of transformation as a dynamic, subjective and embodied experience. This presentation considers the case of post-tsunami relief and reconstruction in the Andaman Islands (South India). It first sets out the ways in which macro-political forces shaped the delivery and distribution of aid and reconstructed housing by state actors; a process that reproduced existing social hierarchy along lines of il/legitimate occupation of land and regional-linguistic identity. Second, the paper examines the impact of relief/reconstruction as a lived experience on tsunami-affected people themselves; more specifically, how it stimulated a moment of critical reflection on the adequacy and equity of prevailing governance norms. This translated into altered political imaginaries and emergent acts of resistance. Through the dual lens of conscientisation (Freire 1970) and evolving imagined social contracts (Blackburn and Pelling 2018), the paper examines the post-disaster space not only as a moment of political re-entrenchment but also – after Cretney (2018) – an opportunity ‘to hope and dream’ for alternative futures. It emphasises evolving citizen subjectivities as essential spaces from which transformative change may emerge or expand.

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