Studying historicities and materialities of a disaster : the Cyclone Pam case

Abstract : From ethnographic data collected in 2015 and 2018, this paper aims to reflect on the historicities and materialities of a “natural” disaster and how they affect current and future life. For this purpose, it focuses on the tropical Cyclone Pam, a category 5 event, with winds gusting at over 300 km that devastated much of the Vanuatu archipelago in March 2015. The eye of the storm passed near the island of Tongoa, inflicting the worst damage in local living memory by destroying most of the buildings, gardens and landscapes and by putting in jeopardy people’s very sources of subsistence for months. Three years later, in 2018, the inhabitants were describing this event as a fundamental rupture between their past and their present ways of living. Indeed, while the cyclone inflicted losses, it also brought what they called “development” and new materialities through NGOs donations that allowed them to live in houses made of concrete, to cultivate new plant species with new tools and from different technics and to benefit from running water. I shall analyse this very rupture between two worlds, two modes of being and interacting with the environment, as both a radical change in historical epochs and as a change in the way people think their place in history.
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Contributor : Maëlle Calandra <>
Submitted on : Wednesday, January 15, 2020 - 5:23:42 PM
Last modification on : Monday, February 10, 2020 - 9:12:02 AM

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Maëlle Calandra. Studying historicities and materialities of a disaster : the Cyclone Pam case. International Workshop Materialities and emotions in times of disasters, Sciences Po, May 2019, Paris, France. ⟨hal-02441345⟩

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