Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: American Ethnological Society
Primary Theme: Resilience
Secondary Theme: Persistence
In the past two decades, anthropological analyses of disaster have offered us new ways of understanding the relationship between natural events and competing societal responses (Button 2010, Oliver-Smith and Hoffman 1999, Weston 2017), the biopolitics of citizenship and governance (Masco 2006, Petryna 2002), and the opportunistic workings of neoliberalism (Adams 2013, Barrios 2017). Additionally, anthropologists have considered other disastrous events such as political violence (Nelson 2009, Scheper-Hughes 1998) and economic restructuring (Han 2012, Song 2009). In this panel, we will look broadly at life after disasters, focusing on the concept of “recovery” in response to the following provocations: What does it mean to say that something can be recovered? How do people rationalize choices about what and whom to claim as worthy of recovery? How are drivers such as social justice or structural violence (re)enacted in the efforts of recovery? What can we learn about sovereignty, citizenship, and biopolitics by attending to the interactions between governmental, nongovernmental, and intergovernmental actors engaged in projects of recovery?
We will pay special attention to the temporal and spatial dimensions of recovery as we move away from the idea of singular disastrous events and toward an understanding of disaster as rupture that includes the effects of slow processes, such as entrenched structural inequalities and anthropogenic climate change. What analytic possibilities are opened up when we remove the assumption that recovery comes after disaster? We will also reflect critically on our own anthropological practice of writing about disaster and recovery, asking to what extent is our writing about disaster an act of recovery. When we work within this frame of writing-as-recovery, how does it shape our sensibilities of what should be recovered, and how might we more productively imagine it otherwise? Finally, we will consider how notions of hopefulness, resilience, or skepticism drive narratives of recovery, both for anthropologists and for the people with whom they work.
This panel is the first part of a proposed two-part panel organized around the concept of recovery. In this panel, we bring together a diverse group of anthropologists who work in different countries (Colombia, Japan, Nepal, Syria, and the US) and who are housed in a variety of academic institutions (universities, a museum, and an international education program). Our panelists are investigating a wide range of post-disaster processes, from the (re)building of physical structures (Lam, McDonald) to the less tangible processes of mourning, memory, and cultural heritage recovery (Daniels, Kumaki, Colby-Bottel).