Clashing Imaginaries: recovery in Tohoku after 2011

Anna Vainio (University of Sheffield)
Benjamin Epstein (University College London)
Anna Martini (University of Groningen)
Anthropology and Sociology
Bloco 1, Piso 1, Sala 1.10
Start time:
1 September, 2017 at 11:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:

The panel discusses involvement of various actors in post-disaster Tohoku and how they imagine the recovery process both in space and time. We will focus on: emotional responses of visitors, negotiation of conflicts and sustainability in communities, and mental health of affected populations.

Long abstract:

The panel offers a range of different perspectives on recovery in Tohoku after the triple disaster of 2011. Five years into the recovery process, locals, visitors and media have created and negotiated imaginaries regarding the disaster, the future of the local communities, and their hopes and desires. The aim of the panel is to critically analyse to what degree the concept of 'imaginary' can be a tool for building sustainable futures in post-disaster communities, creating an educational tourism circuit, and being of help for post-disaster trauma mental health practitioners. We will focus on the clash between imaginary/imagined landscapes and actual, on-going processes of recovery. This includes the sometimes clashing, difficult, contested relationships among the actors involved in the recovery process, such as the government, national and local NGOs, locals, and foreigners. The panel connects interdisciplinary approaches that discuss the concept of imaginary, borrowing from geographies of tourism, psychology, and community studies. A focus on the imaginary, the imagined landscapes, and imagined futures, can be a powerful tool in post-disaster recovery. The imaginary is defined as a set of values, institutions, laws, and symbols common to a particular social group and the corresponding society through which people imagine their social whole. Imaginary can be used as grounding concept to avoid falling into debates on definitions of recovery, a term that present ambiguities and have fuzzy definitions, as it is widely used but seldom critically defined. To move forward from such debates, this panel adopts, in all its presentations, the connecting concepts of 'imaginary'. This gives the opportunity to approach post-disaster development, sustainability, and communities hopes and desires, using discourses of representation, subjectivity, emotionality and perception. By developing a connection between imaginaries and recovery, the panel's aim is to uncover gaps between the needs and desires of the actors considered, and in the expectations, negotiations and policies of the relations between the actors (victim-helper, community-authorities, and tourist-locals). By zooming in on how the recovery is imagined in different settings, by different actors, we uncover a potential in using the imaginary to address issues of agency, sustainability, and potential for the future.