‘I Lived Through a Disaster’: Disaster Memories and Lived Experiences After the 2010 Leh Flash Floods
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Dominant discourses in Indian disaster research have always focussed on studying disasters as an external and objective reality while ignoring the more subjective and experiential aspects of it. Majority studies have largely disregarded the exploration of lived experiences of disasters and the importance of memory and memorializing in rehabilitation work. However, disasters also have an ‘experiential’ reality, the memory of which creates a critical reflection of the past disaster for better preparedness in the present and for future disasters. Therefore, this paper turns its attention to the lived experiences of disaster affected individuals. Through a narrative ethnographic study in the district of Leh in 2013, three years after the disaster (flash floods), the paper argues that post-disaster experiences are socio-culturally shaped and that ‘certain memories’ allow for hope and better preparedness for a future disaster. An attempt has been made to examine post-disaster experiences to understand the role of various actors, spaces and narratives produced and reproduced in the context of relief and rehabilitation. The paper explores the varied kinds of memory works and memorializing practices adopted in a post-disaster context and the different temporal and spatial constructions of post-disaster memories. This gives insights into proposals for memory management and public commemoration of disasters. In conclusion, this paper is an anthropological study of disaster relief and rehabilitation which contributes to the understanding of social memory with respect to theories of risk, vulnerability and resilience.
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