Accepted Paper:

Common ground for understanding vs. common language: illustrating experiences of daily life after natural disasters   


Dikaios Sakellariou (Cardiff University)

Paper short abstract:

To achieve an understanding of individual experiences after a disaster we need to implement theoretical constructs that acknowledge the fragmented nature of reality. This poster uses the concept of heteroglossia to refer to the diverse perspectives different social actors have and how these impact upon their interactions.

Paper long abstract:

Disasters and their impact have traditionally been discussed by non-affected people, while the experiences of affected people are rarely heard, precluding the possibility of constructing a common ground for understanding. This poster will present the concept of heteroglossia as the theoretical assumption underpinning a study aiming to construct narratives of daily life experiences after a disaster.

Different social actors occupy different vantage points and thus their experiences, and their interpretations of these, vary. To illustrate this multifactorial discourse, the Bakhtinian concept of heteroglossia will be used. Heteroglossia refers to the multiple discourses operative in every society which regulate access to resources, including power and representation. The various vantage points people occupy, their different perspectives and the different “languages” they speak are intertwined in relationships of power.

The construction of a common language does not eradicate the possibility of misinterpretation, as it perpetuates power differentials, and also excludes people whose experience cannot be understood according to these conventions. Acknowledging heteroglossia enables us to accept the fragmented nature of reality and make sense of the multiple semantic networks within which individual experiences are grounded. The importance of narratives is that by giving lives a sense of continuity and meaning they make them legible, and thus they enable people to communicate towards a negotiated common understanding.

Narratives will illuminate how the participants make meaning of their life worlds. It is in the exploration of these multiple narratives that the hope for the establishment of a common ground for understanding and action lies.

Panel W121
Poster session