Accepted Paper:

Risk after disaster: Lac-Megantic and hydrocarbon transportation  

Authors:

Emmanuelle Bouchard-Bastien (Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ))
Genevieve Brisson

Paper short abstract:

In July 2013, a train of petroleum products derailed in Lac-Mégantic, causing deaths and destruction of the city center. This paper presents a part of the results of an anthropological study about social consequences, and applies anthropology to examine the paradigm of new energetic development.

Paper long abstract:

In July 2013, a train of petroleum products derailed in Lac-Mégantic, causing deaths and destruction of the city center. This paper presents a part of the results of an anthropological study about social consequences, based upon participatory observations and 57 semi-directed interviews with citizens and socio-economic actors.

This qualitative study contributes to the field of anthropological catastrophe studies in order to think in social and symbolic ways about the paradigm of new energetic development. The analysis reveals that Lac-Megantic was in economic decline when the accident occurred. The railway is perceived as useful to industrial activities. For this reason, some informants want to maintain the railway as before, crossing the middle of the small city. For some others, trains must be banished from Lac-Megantic city and an alternative rail trajectory must be built, but this is largely based on a symbolic desire for healing. Those two opposite visions create larger conflicts in the community, amid calls for peace and solidarity. Municipal and central authorities seem to contribute to the tension by their lack of clear orientations about the railway's future, and about the economic development of this impacted place.

This work adds a contemporary example of the possible consequences of the increasing development of hydrocarbons in North America. This ethnographic case study helps to draw lessons for authorities about risk management and the difficulties in a context of post-trauma community.

Panel LL-AS07
The scope of the anthropology of risk and disaster