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The neoliberal aftershock

Simpson, Edward and Serafini, Michele (2015) 'The neoliberal aftershock.' Himal (Southasian), 28 (2). pp. 12-25.

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Abstract

When we look to Nepal, we see in the scramble and confusion which comes after an earthquake many similarities with what happened in Gujarat in India): stories of maladministration, aid comedy, miracles, blame, hostility, ineffectual decisions, but also compassion and generosity. We hear stories of map-drawing, competitive coordination, and the strange condition of life just going on. We see damage assessment, self-demolitions, anxiety about compensation scales, and the uncertainty introduced by complex and future-looking urban planning. We also read of an anguished diaspora donating with the forgivable nostalgia and enthusiasm of a migrant. The idea of ‘transparency’ and building back without corruption has already become the central motif of post-earthquake discussions. We suggest that history is remarkably important in the aftermath of natural disaster, not only as catharsis and contemplative self-reflection because it forms a strong foundation from which to argue and protest. As weeks become months, fear of the earth shaking again will recede, and with it the memory of those days of confusion will accrete around carefully selected things. Research in Gujarat has shown that earthquake amnesia is cultural in form, not natural in fact. Explanations about what and why things happened will be sociology dressed as divinity. Fragmented memories of the uncertainty and ambiguity of the immediate aftermath will be turned into narrative form. In time, these narratives will become ‘the’ history of the disaster. Against this backdrop, we suggest that it is important to know how the earthquake is remembered how this process is complicated by political opportunism, the moral drift of humanitarianism, and the hyperbole of disaster capitalism.

Item Type: Articles
SOAS Departments & Centres: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Department of Anthropology and Sociology
ISSN: 10129804
Depositing User: Edward Simpson
Date Deposited: 05 Nov 2015 12:14
URI: http://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/21318

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