Governing Affect: Neoliberalism and Disaster Reconstruction

By Roberto E. Barrios | Go to book overview

10. The Anthropology of Affect and Disasters
FROM CRITIQUE TO PRACTICE

The anthropology of disaster lets us recognize that catastrophes take form as a result of human practices that enhance the socially disruptive and materially destructive capacities of geophysical phenomena and that inequitably distribute a catastrophe’s impacts along the fault lines of a society’s body politic. Disaster reconstruction policies and practices that propose market-driven recovery (the circulation of people and capital of the UNOP plan in New Orleans, the regional market integration of Nuevo San Juan de Grijalva, the housing market of post-Mitch Honduras) or the spatial modernization of disaster-affected communities (the regimented, homogenized, and minimalized spaces of Limón de la Cerca and San Juan de Grijalva) not only fail to address the root causes of disasters but also create realities that complicate the survivors’ affective and socioeconomic experience of recovery.

In post-Mitch Honduras the modernist regimentation of space disrupted important social relations critical to local practices of household security and child care. In New Orleans the conceptualization of the built environment as a mechanism for capital investment and circulation both ignored and failed to address the processes of racialized difference making that historically engendered disaster vulnerability in the city. In San Juan de Grijalva the drastic transformation of subsistence agriculture and household ecologies to a market-integrated suburban “city” created conditions of economic insecurity and affective disorientation among displaced families. In all of these cases, disaster survivors invoked their affective experience—in terms of hallarse, comfort, appreciation, and feelings of security—as the criterion through which they assessed the relevance and efficacy of disaster reconstruction policies and practices.

While presenting the research in this book to colleagues at a disaster reconstruction workshop at Chongqing University, China, in 2014, a fel-

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