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Weathering the World

Weathering the World: Recovery in the Wake of the Tsunami in a Tamil Fishing Village

Frida Hastrup
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 158
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  • Book Info
    Weathering the World
    Book Description:

    The Asian tsunami in December 2004 severely affected people in coastal regions all around the Indian Ocean. This book provides the first in-depth ethnography of the disaster and its effects on a fishing village in Tamil Nadu, India. The author explores how the villagers have lived with the tsunami in the years succeeding it and actively worked to gradually regain a sense of certainty and confidence in their environment in the face of disempowering disaster. What appears is a remarkable local recovery process in which the survivors have interwoven the tsunami and the everyday in a series of subtle practices and theorisations, resulting in a complex and continuous recreation of village life. By showing the composite nature of the tsunami as an event, the book adds new theoretical insight into the anthropology of natural disaster and recovery.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-200-9
    Subjects: Anthropology, Biological Sciences, General Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Chapter 1 Processing Disaster and Recovery
    (pp. 1-17)

    Through the open window of my room I could hear people walking by on the adjoining road. At first, the large number of evacuees was given away only by the sound of hurried feet in sandals brushing over the tarmac. Seeing clearly into the night was difficult, but after a few moments of adjusting my eyes to the dark, the silhouettes of hundreds of people appeared as they were making their way along the nearby road heading away from the coast. Most of them carried luggage or sleeping children; some were clutching packets of relief aid still wrapped in the...

  6. Chapter 2 The Field: Entrance and Emergence
    (pp. 18-41)

    The initial selection of the site for an anthropological fieldwork can be quite coincidental, even if it later appears as inevitable in oneʹs professional biography. Through a connection at the University of Copenhagen, I was offered the opportunity to come along on a trip to Tharangambadi shortly after the tsunami to accompany a representative from a charity foundation, who wanted to provide humanitarian aid in response to the disaster. Little knowing that the place would eventually become a long-term field site of mine, I embarked on a trip to the village in February 2005.

    Prior to my first visit to...

  7. Chapter 3 The Dwelling: Homes and Hazards
    (pp. 42-58)

    The blue tarpaulin covering the door opening was held aside temporarily while Renuga and I entered Saravananʹs new house located just off the temple square. Once we were inside, Saravanan swiftly fastened the blue plastic sheet with a string to a heavy boat engine lying on the floor close by. Outside the rain was pouring, and the tarpaulin had to be held in place as it functioned instead of a proper door to prevent the water from soaking the floor of the house. The sound of water drumming on the plastic left us in no doubt that the tarpaulin did...

  8. Chapter 4 On Forecasting: Wind and Water
    (pp. 59-77)

    In Tharangambadi nightfall is a sudden event, and with the scarce street lightning the village is engulfed in dark from early evening. During my fieldworks, night would often have fallen while Renuga and I had talked or gone over the dayʹs findings in her old house on the temple square in the heart of the fishing neighbourhood. On these evenings, Renugaʹs husband Kalaimani would walk me home through the pitch-dark streets of the village to ensure a safe return to my room. Different ways of paying attention to the surroundings can be made apparent through different walking skills and through...

  9. Chapter 5 Responsibility: Agents and Agencies
    (pp. 78-97)

    Veronica, the director of a local development and womenʹs NGO named Rural Organisation for Social Action (ROSA), had invited me to come to the organisationʹs office located on the main road of Tharangambadi a few minutesʹ walk from the village bus stand at ten oʹclock in the morning. When I arrived, many people were already gathered there, among whom were the staff members of the organisation, whom I had come to know quite well. Ever since my first stay in Tharangambadi in early 2005, when I had rented a room in the ROSA office building, the house had been a...

  10. Chapter 6 Confusing Hardships: Onslaught and Opportunity
    (pp. 98-115)

    On the southernmost outskirts of the fishing communityʹs settlement, a mere twenty metres or so from the waterfront, where the sandy beach gives way to a barrier of granite boulders and behind these a gravel path, the ruined remains of a private house come in to view. The only vestiges of the structure that has clearly been someoneʹs home are the door frame, a few sections of the brick walls and the cement flooring between them. From my first stay in Tharangambadi in 2005 until my latest stay, I have seen how the ruined house has gradually fallen more and...

  11. Chapter 7 Materialisations of Loss: Monument and Memory
    (pp. 116-128)

    Getting up to take leave from Punithaʹs home in the temporary shelters, where Renuga and I met her in August 2006 to hear the story of how the tsunami had affected her life, I spotted a small framed picture of a young girl wearing a school uniform on one of the homemade shelves hanging from the wall. Noticing that I looked at the photo, Renuga explained to me that it depicted Punithaʹs daughter who had died in the tsunami at the age of nine. On the day of the disaster Punitha herself had gone to the temple in the neighbouring...

  12. Chapter 8 Everyday Life: Tsunami Time
    (pp. 129-134)

    Throughout the book I have wanted to show how in the wake of the tsunami survivors in Tharangambadi have been engaged in a process of recovery that consisted in gradually folding the tsunami into the ordinary. I have explored this as an issue of local theorisation about the character of the everyday, which the villagers seem to have conceptualised in such ways that it could gradually come to contain the disaster and the changes it brought, while neither denying them nor surrendering to them. Interweaving the tsunami and the ordinary seemed to be both the means to and the end...

  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 135-146)
  14. Index
    (pp. 147-152)