This project, funded under the British Academy’s GCRF Sustainable Development Programme, generates applied knowledge on experiences of recovery in post-disaster settings within India using historical research and creative, participatory methodologies drawn from the humanities and social sciences. The hypothesis of the research is that recovery processes that recognise and respect the dignity of socially-differentiated populations will result in more sustainable responses, minimising ongoing trauma.
At the heart of the project is a focus on recognising and respecting the dignity of affected populations. In the initial rush to respond to disaster events, the rights, voices and ways in which affected populations are represented can homogenise and undermine rather than support their dignity, prolonging the experience of trauma and, ultimately the time it takes to recover. Longer-term responses to disaster events then have a tendency to view the recovery process through technocratic and managerial fixes, downplaying the more human-focused aspects (e.g. the psychosocial elements) and ignoring the individual and socially-differentiated ways in which disaster and recovery are experienced.
Focusing initially on experiences of major disaster events in Odisha (1999 and 2013) and Tamil Nadu (2004 and 2015), the project uses archival research, narrative analysis and interview techniques to understand existing framings of recovery. In its second phase the project then applies this knowledge to challenge representations and strengthen the voices of disaster-affected groups in the contemporary post-disaster context of Kerala (which experienced severe flash floods and landslides in 2018 and 2019). Coproduced elements of the research, including a travelling exhibition curated by disaster survivors, place affected populations at its heart. Impact is built into the fabric of the project through the integration of research with engagement and dissemination activities.
The central objectives are to:
1. Advance understanding on how, by whom and for what purposes events, processes and experiences of recovery have been framed and communicated in the post-disaster phase;
2. Use this critical understanding to highlight how the dignity, voices, rights and needs of disaster-affected people might be better supported over the long term;
3. Work directly with communities in India experiencing the aftermath of recent disasters to help strengthen people’s voice in shaping the paths of memorialisation and rehabilitation.
Project outputs to date include: