Post-disaster situations and the appropriation of disaster governance from below [Disaster and Crisis Anthropology Network (DICAN)]
Martin Sökefeld (LMU Munich)
Pascale Schild (University of Bern)
Friday 17 August, 11:15-13:00 (UTC+0)

Short abstract:

This workshop explores unpredictable and ambivalent social and political consequences of post-disaster interventions by state and non-state institutions, pointing to how affected people appropriate the instruments and subjectivities of disaster governance for their own purposes in manifold ways.

Long abstract:

Disasters bring about many interventions by state and non-state institutions to ensure the survival of affected people and to restore destroyed environments and disrupted communities. These interventions, as Tania Li and others argue with a Foucauldian view on practices of governing, seldom improve people's lives according to plan. Yet, they do have powerful effects. In post-disaster situations, they often involve new ways of interaction between governing institutions and affected people. Often people are forced to move away from their homes and to stay in camps or shelters. Confronted with instruments of disaster governance - rescue operations, relief packages, subsidies, household surveys, compensation lists and many others - people are targeted as beneficiaries in various ways, ranging from passive victims, whose basic needs have to be satisfied, to self-responsible stakeholders in reconstruction programs. The consequences of these instruments and subjectivities reach beyond intended effects, as people develop their own strategies of dealing with them. They appropriate disaster governance for their own purposes by tampering with lists, splitting households, forming alliances with relief agencies, or authoring discourses of victimhood. Thus, for instance, while subject positions as victims are affirmed and embraced, people acquire agency and often negotiate a new sense of entitlement towards governments and NGOs.

We invite contributions that analyse cases of appropriation of disaster governance from below, demonstrating unpredictable and ambivalent consequences of political interventions after disasters which may fail and cause conflicts but also provide opportunities for people to take care of their needs and negotiate power relations.