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Accepted Paper:

What's lucky about a disaster? On gifts, chance and envy  
Alicia Sliwinski (Wilfrid Laurier University)

Paper long abstract:

Pairing the notions of luck and disaster may seem anathema, especially considering the tremendous destruction recent disasters have caused. However, disasters can also be an opportunity for change, the politics of which varies of course. This is most apparent in the reconstruction period when funds are disbursed to build new habitats. Drawing from ethnographic fieldwork in a Salvadorian municipality, this presentation discusses how the idea of chance framed humanitarian aid and reconstruction initiatives. The distribution of aid and the opportunity of owning a new house were considered by receiving groups as unforeseen gifts, a fortunate event. But someone's luck may be somebody else's envy, especially so in a context where the acquisition of goods remains difficult for poor and vulnerable populations. Exploring the connections between loss, luck and envy, this paper seeks to map the multifaceted representations of a disaster.

Panel W098
Chance in time of crisis
  Session 1