Recovery with Dignity

This project aims to generate applied knowledge on experiences of recovery in post-disaster settings within India. It hypothesises that recovery processes that recognise and respect the dignity of socially-differentiated populations will result in more sustainable responses, minimising ongoing trauma.
Project status

Focusing on the 1999 super-cyclone in Odisha and the 2004 Tsunami in Tamil Nadu, the project uses archival research and narrative analysis to understand existing framings of recovery and then applies this knowledge to two contemporary post-disaster contexts - the 2013 Cyclone Phailin and the 2015 Chennai floods. The project aims to deepen understanding of the long-term implications of disaster events on human and economic development and to strengthen people’s voices in securing a sustainable future. Disasters threaten human development goals, particularly for the most marginalised and vulnerable populations, and often retard progress towards sustainable, resilient and equitable economic growth.

The core 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 socially-differentiated dignity, prolonging the experience of trauma and, ultimately the time it takes to recover. Longer-term responses to disaster events then tend to view the recovery process through technocratic and managerial fixes, downplaying the more human-focused aspects and ignoring the individual and socially-differentiated ways in which disaster and recovery are experienced. Through a focus on historical and contemporary disaster events in India, the project explores how affected populations have been represented historically and the implications of different narratives of recovery for their ability to achieve wellbeing and retain their dignity.

Through the critical analysis of different framings and understandings of recovery, the project advocates for fairer representation of the identities and priorities of poorer and/or politically marginalised groups within the recovery process (often those who face the most difficult struggle to rebuild their lives). Different people, embedded within different cultures and contexts, experience disaster and recovery uniquely. What they value at times of disruption and dislocation, such as the individual desires for memorialisation, must be acknowledged, respected and supported. In applying the knowledge generated through this research, the project seeks to influence policy and practice so that all those affected by disaster are supported, valued and nourished during the recovery process.

Principal Investigator: Professor Roger Few, University of East Anglia

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