Accepted paper:

Contesting disaster: politics of memory and oblivion in Santa Fe, Argentina


Susann Baez Ullberg (Uppsala University)

Paper short abstract:

In 2003 occurred the allegedly worst flood in history of Santa Fe, Argentina. In the wake of this disaster a protest movement emerged. This paper analyses their mobilisation in terms of memory work and aims at understanding how subjective experience is collectively expressed.

Paper long abstract:

Disastrous floods are historically recurrent in the town of Santa Fe in the Northeast of Argentina, generally affecting the socially most vulnerable people in town. In 2003, though, occurred what many santafesinos describe as the worst in memory. On this occasion a third of the city area was flooded and among the victims were many middle class residents who had never before been affected by the city's floods. For them, this was not only an unexpected event but also culturally unimaginable. Many of these victims constitute the protest movement of 'los Inundados' (the Flood Victims) that emerged in the wake of this disaster, claiming accountability of municipal and provincial governments for their actions before, during and after the disaster. Such claims have largely been dismissed by local authorities though. By conceptualising the narratives and practices of 'los Inundados' as techniques of memory, this paper aims at understanding how subjective experiences of disaster are expressed at a social level and thereby constitute an "accidental community of memory," which forms the basis for social mobilisation. The ethnography presented is based on fieldwork in Santa Fe in 2005.

panel W013
Experiencing calamity - expressing the unthinkable