Unformatted text preview: Slide 1 In the pervious lecture we looked at disasters from of the perspec6ve of scholars and professionals who deal with them. We talked about scholarly concepts like natural hazards and short and long 6me spans. In this second lecture in this module we are going to turn to a diﬀerent perspec6ve, this 6me we are going to focus to how people who are eﬀected by the disasters themselves make meaning from the disasters. 1 Slide 2 In this lecture we are going to talk about 3 diﬀerent ways that people aﬀected by disasters make meaning that helps makes sense of the disaster. But the very ﬁrst thing that we are going to focus on is cultural understandings of disaster causes. When we say culture what we mean is shared meanings. How do people construct a shared understanding of why disasters occur? We’ll turn through a few diﬀerent socie6es looking at examples of the way they construct disaster causality and understand it to operate in their own lives. 2 Slide 3 The ﬁrst example that we will turn to is the example of the Zulu experiencing drought. For those of you who not know the Zulu is a Bantu ethic group that lives in South Africa, and we will be drawing heavily on the work of Axel-‐Ivar Berglund who studied Zulu thought paNerns and symbolism. You can ﬁnd the cita6on for his work as well as that any other scholarly work that I talk about in the notes of this slide. When the drought was very severe among the Zulu the local chief would decide that people should go up to the hill and pray for rain. Before this the people who would go up the hill would abstain from ea6ng and from sexual rela6ons to show the Lord of the Sky that they are hungry and that they were extraordinarily weak. They would wear white clothes to commemorate the event and people would kneel in a stone of circles, and in perfect silence the leader would pray the following prayer: Lord we are in your presence. Lord we have been brought here by the great cry, our great need. You of the heavens, you who are everlas6ng, look upon us and assist us. You who destroy us, you of the sky, we being unconscious of what wrong we have done. We cast ourselves before countenance you Lord and we say have mercy on us and give us your daughters, the drops of rain. We say Lord of the Heavens do not destroy us. So you can see in this example the Zulu conceptualiza6on of drought is that they have done some wrong to their god and are being punished, and they believe that it is within the power of the god to stop the drought and send them rain. That is weather paNerns are under the command of a god and that they can aﬀect these weather 3 Slide 4 In this example we are going to examine Tapirapé understandings of storm causa6ons. In this case the Tapirapé are an indigenous people in the Brazilian Amazon, and we are going to be drawing heavily on the work of the famous anthropologist Charles Wagley. He says that in each year in late December or January there are very heavy thunderstorms, ligh6ng and strong winds. The Tapirapé believe that the thunder is angry and that the noise from storm is the rumbling of his canoes and that the ligh6ng is their speeding arrows. Once when a strong wind ripped the roof oﬀ of a house Tapirapé men were frightened because they knew that this wind was sent by the thunder. At this 6me of year the shamans call the thunder and match their powers against him. In frenzy intoxica6on from gulping tobacco smoke, constant singing and dancing, they fall into trances during which they have to travel to the house of thunder. Shamans and the courageous laymen that take place in the ceremony are struck down by thunder’s arrows while wri6ng upon the ground, and violent behavior is the keynote in these ceremonies against thunder and his beings. So here we have a very diﬀerent culturally constructed sense of causality. In this case, the people of Tapirapé don’t believe necessarily that they have oﬀended the god but they believe that their thunder god has sent this storm as a kind of assault upon them and that they have to go into a kind of a trance state to essen6ally ﬁght the thunder god and drive oﬀ the storms. Again this is another case in which humans believe that they can insert themselves into the struggle over nature, and they can somehow 4 Slide 5 This third example is the example of the Bella Coola and earthquakes. The Bella Coola are an indigenous group that lives in Canada and here we will be drawing on the work of T.F. McIlwraith. The Bella Coola believe that an earthquake is caused by the earth slipping very slightly from the grasp of Sninia, their god. Whenever an earthquake tremor occurs the Bella Coola call their associates and a dance is held, and this could be in any season and the ritual whether it is held in spring or summer is iden6cal. The dancers have patrons, who are the thunder, the sun or the moon. The theme of the song is the manner in which Sninia performs his func6on of holding the world. A call from Sninia may also come in the normal manner to one of his protégés during the ceremonial season. In this case we now have a very diﬀerent worldview aNributed to disaster causality. In the ﬁrst two cases obviously we had cases in which we had a deity who was punishing humans. In this case there is no punishment involved it is merely that their god who is holding the earth has slipped his grasp, so by enac6ng these ceremonial rights the Bella Coola believe that can get Sninia to more ﬁrmly hold the earth and prevent earthquakes. Once again humans believing through ritual behavior can aﬀect disaster course, but this one doesn’t have this sort of blame element that is so common in some of the other cases that we’ve looked at. Cita6on: McIlwraith, T. F. (1992). The Bella Coola Indians (Vol. 1). University of Toronto Press. 5 Slide 6 It is very important to stress that these beliefs about disaster causality being a case of divine retribu6on or somehow involved in the ac6ons of a deity are not something that are conﬁded to historic or indigenous socie6es. In fact this is something that is characteris6c of probably all human socie6es. To demonstrate this I wanted to give you an example of a rela6vely recent Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. In the Hurricane Katrina case there are a number of reasons of divine retribu6on causing the hurricane. One of them had to do with the conﬂict in the Middle East over Israel, one prominent ultra orthodox Israeli rabbi said that Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment for President Bush’s support of a withdraw of Jewish seNlers from the Gaza Strip. Another evangelical minister thought that the hurricane was a sign of God’s wrath over the US pressure on Israel. However there were also members of Al Qaeda in Iraq who said that the hurricane was an event in which God has hacked America and the prayers of the oppressed were answered. So you can see for various reasons people aNributed Hurricane Katrina to be a punishment over the United States’ role in conﬂicts in the Middle East. But there was another set of perspec6ves that had to do with Hurricane Katrina and racism in the United States. Minister Louis Farrakhan said that Hurricane Karina was God’s way of punishing for its war mongering and racism. And there were yet another set of reasons advanced that had to do with sexual immorality and abor6on. The evangelist, Pat Roberson, said that Hurricane Katrina could be a punishment for the United States’ abor6on policy, and 6 Slide 7 Beyond the search for meanings in terms of why disasters occur once disasters happen and take an enormous toll on human lives people will oien try to ﬁnd ways to create death rituals that imbue the disaster with meaning. Now in the next few slides we are going to take a look a few diﬀerent ways in which humans create meaning around disaster related deaths. See Disasters and the media on culture/ritual p. 30-‐31 7 Slide 8 The management of an enormous number of corpses that can be generated by natural disasters is an area of exper6se unto itself. This area of exper6se involves procedures for encountering human remains or holding them while they are being examined and viewed for the iden6ﬁca6on of the human remains such as through DNA, and for the disposal of human remains whether though crema6on or burial. Given the technological challenges involved in disposing of huge numbers of corpses you might imagine that it is diﬃcult to make space for things like rituals, however the World Health Organiza6on and others that deal with major disasters counsel that no decision shall be done with human remains un6l people in the disaster site are consulted. And the reason for this is that for many socie6es have speciﬁc rituals that require or prohibit certain ac6ons to be taken so that a person can be laid to rest. So in some religions or socie6es crema6on is something that is considered essen6al, where in others crema6on is considered a total viola6on and prevents people from being properly put to rest. In order to make sure that the living are able to cope with the results of a disaster it is oien necessary that some degree of death ritual be observed. Oien this is in a modiﬁed state but it is important to work with people to observe these rituals. If such rituals are not observed it can have extraordinary mental health impacts for those who have survived the disaster and also do violence in the terms of cultural lose or the loss of heritage in the long term to the society, if people believe that their dead have not been properly put to rest. For this reason 8 Slide 9 Another form of meaning making around disaster related death is grassroots memorials. Grassroots memorials have become increasingly common since the 1980s, and it is essen6ally a public ins6lla6on designed to commemorate the deaths of people who have suﬀered from some kind of disaster. One interes6ng element of the grassroots memorial is a way of crea6ng a space for celebra6ng the lives of those who died apart from their bodies themselves. Even in the context of massive disaster in which mass graves have become necessary or perhaps the vic6ms have not had been able to be individually iden6ﬁed these grassroots memorials serve as a special place where people can commemorate the lives who died, and also to talk about the meaning of the disaster itself. It is a place for worship, a place for remembrance, and a way of crea6ng a space in the context of the disaster that may have taken away homes and other types of meaningful public spaces. Cita6on: Margry, P. J., & Sánchez-‐Carretero, C. (Eds.). (2013). Grassroots memorials: the poli5cs of memorializing trauma5c death (Vol. 12). Berghahn books. 9 Slide 10 In contrast to grassroots memorials which are spontaneous and might be started by a few people without the consent of the community, a community commemora6on is a much more oﬃcial and formal way of crea6ng meaning around disaster deaths. As such it involves a great deal of discussion, argumenta6on and collec6ve decision making around what the meaning of the disaster was and how the community wants to remember it whether as a cau6on or an inspira6on or a protest. As a result community commemora6ons are oien erected long aier the disaster itself, and are part of a very longed period of community discussion and meaning making. Such formal remembrances can actually be considered to do violence to the community or to the memory of the dead if they do not truly reﬂect a shared sense of meaning or the poli6cal collabora6on in construc6ng that meaning aier the disaster. However when the communi6es go through an appropriate process of collabora6on and consulta6on the commemora6on itself can serve as a form of recover in addi6on to remembrance. Cita6on: Eyre, A. (2007). Remembering: Community commemora6on aier disaster. In Handbook of disaster research (pp. 441-‐455). Springer New York. 10 Slide 11 In the precious two sec6ons of this lecture we have looked at culture around disaster that is the shared meaning around disasters as something that is formed by individual people, grassroots collabora6on, and community discussion. So whether that’s what is the cause of the disaster or how do people cope with the consequences of it, we have been talking about it at the level of a shared ac6vity of meaning making. However there is also the way that disaster reverberates through popular culture and in this case the meaning making is oien not a grassroots ac6vity but something that a few people or even just one person might par6cipate. We are going to turn to a few diﬀerent examples of disasters in literature, music and popular media as this lecture closes. 11 Slide 12 In the ﬁrst lecture we talked about how people who experience with disasters again and again whether a fast moving earthquake or a slow moving drought, they begin to develop cultures of disaster. And in that ﬁrst lecture we talked about how these cultures of disaster can help people protect themselves through a historical memory of what kinds of disaster plans are at the community level, the household level save lives. But it is also true that places with repeated disasters people build an actual literary or musical culture of disaster as well which allows them to express their feelings, their fears to morn the eﬀects of a disaster. One such example is in the north east of Brazil; here I am drawing heavily on Mark Anderson’s wonderful book, Disaster Wri5ng. He talks about how in the north east of Brazil that arid region there were great droughts in 1877, 1915, 1931, and 1951 and hundreds of thousands of people died oien of starva6on or epidemics but because it was a gradual drought related disaster, the onset meant that people were able to ﬂee in 6me to survive and it lead to massive migra6ons to Brazil’s costal ci6es and south. And the repe66on of these dire circumstances again and again over genera6ons then simulated cultural produc6on crea6ng narra6ve that explain the disaster in its socioeconomic consequences. Anderson then says that the [Sertau] in northeastern Brazil has developed a mythical geography of contradic6ng fantasies populated by honest to a fault cowboys, corrupt poli6cians, Robin Hood like conquiseros who rape and pillage the poor and the rich, penitent religious fana6cs who cohabitate freely in orgy ﬁlled 12 Slide 13 Another example of the construc6on of popular culture around repeated disaster experiences is in Louisiana. I’ve included the music for the song Louisiana 1927 that commemorates the aﬀects of a terrible ﬂood in that year, but I have also included in the notes of this slide the links to two versions of this song that were reprised in the aiermath of Hurricane Katrina. One of them is by India Arie and Pe Bo Bryson, and the other is by Randy Newman. They are two very diﬀerent versions, but are extraordinarily mournful and protes6ng of not only the deaths that occurred but why they occurred in a poli6cal and economic space that allowed them. So if you are interested of this sort of construc6on of disaster and music, I encourage you to follow the links to hear the two diﬀerent rendi6ons of the songs. Randy Newman version: hNp:// ?
v=MGs2iLoDUYE&feature=kp Aaron Neville & India Arie version (starts 2:28): hNp:// -‐
OxcXHuAY0k&feature=kp 13 Slide 14 One area that has seen a great deal of scholarly and popular aNen6on is the way that popular media and movies construct and depict disasters. Now this is such an important topic because of the power popular media and the movie industry wield in our society, so that is not only are they able to direct a great deal of aNen6on and ac6vism towards an issue but they also have the power to fundamentally shape and alter the way that we as viewers see and experience the disaster. And that reason it is par6cularly important that we consume and cri6que the media and the narra6ves that are constructed around disasters through popular media and movies. So we will just take some quick looks at some topics that people who are interested in this area of scholarship are discussing. See intro & Ch 1 in Disasters and the Media, esp. p 25-‐30 Panw, M., Wahl-‐Jorgensen, K., & CoNle, S. (2012). Disasters and the Media. 14 Slide 15 One area that has received a lot of aNen6on, and aNracted some controversy is in the realm of popular media’s repor6ng on disasters and their use of emo6on as part of repor6ng. No one can deny that a disaster is a 6me of very high emo6ons: despair, fear, tragedy, sadness, horror, all of these emo6ons are very common in disasters. So of course fundamentally emo6on is part of the story of repor6ng on a disaster. Now interes6ngly the exporta6on of more emo6on has tradi6onally run counter to the ways in which people are supposed to report on events. Journalists trained to be neutral, have a fact based orienta6on, and to not get emo6onally involved with their stories. But over 6me repor6ng on disasters has challenged this, not only do journalists get sucked in because as they are interviewing someone that person begins to cry and the journalist feels compelled to comfort them, but also the journalists themselves have emo6onal responses: horror, shock, fear, and of course journalism is an extraordinarily dangerous job and if you look at the death rates of journalists in war situa6ons you will see how dangerous it is to them. So it is natural for the journalists themselves would have these responses. Over 6me we have become more comfortable with the idea that people in the media will express their emo6ons and in fact to some extent this has given rise to a sub genre of journalists who are all about expressing their emo6ons in the face of horror and shocking events. You can see that this slide we have here sort of sa6rizes the ways in which journalists have become so comfortable about taking about feelings that it might 15 Slide 16 In contrast to what we might call this what we might call this news style of repor6ng that is more emo6onal, journalists have historically relied very heavily on government oﬃcials, community oﬃcials to interview and publicize the facts of disasters, but as many scholars like Naomi Kline and others have said this approach to disaster repor6ng leans too heavily on the sort of power players perspec6ve on what is happening. And when you rely on power players it increases the chance that inconvenient truths are being obfuscated, the people have the opportunity to cover over errors that have been made in the oﬃcial realm. So oien 6mes people cri6que this kind of disaster repor6ng that relies elites, government oﬃcials, community oﬃcials in the case of lets say an oil spill CEOs, company oﬃcials PR people’s narra6ves because they don’t get to the truth as to why peoples lives are being so heavily aﬀected by the disaster. In fact Naomi Kline in her book, The Shock Doctrine the Rise of Disaster Capital, has argued that there is a collusion between society’s power players and the journalists to do the following and I quote “this is how the shock doctrine works, the original disaster puts the en6re popula6on into a state of collec6ve shock, the falling bombs, the bursts of terror, pounding winds serve to soien up the socie6es. Like a terrorized prisoner who gives up the names to comrades and renounces his faith, shocked socie6es will oien give up things that otherwise they would ﬁercely protect. Following Hurricane Katrina the evacuees were supposed to give up their housing projects and public schools, aier the tsunami 16 Slide 17 In this ﬁnal slide I want to brieﬂy engage with the issue of media depic6ons, par6cular ﬁlm depic6ons, of disasters. And of course disasters are spectacular, in the sense that they create a major spectacle that draws people to view them, and as such they make really excellent movies, but whenever disasters are depicted it is important to think about what kind of informa6on is being convey. So Gregory BuNon is an anthropologist who is an expert in disasters has argued that most medi...
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