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Accepted Paper:

An Ardent Sense of the Present Tense: Poetry as a Method for Community Engagement after Wildfires  
Marvin Heine (Institute for European Ethnology Humboldt University of Berlin)

Paper short abstract:

By thinking forest fires as affective atmospheres, this presentation is guided by the question of how creative writing might help affected persons to work through environmentally induced distress in a sensitive, embodied and creative way.

Paper long abstract:

There is a porosity between bodies and their surroundings, and just as people's homes can catch fire, so can their feelings. Forest fires, therefore, emerge as part of a rapidly changing earth atmosphere, and simultaneously as part of a collectively sensed, social, affective atmosphere. Individuals and communities affected by such disasters often experience a sense of loss, grief, powerlessness and trauma in relation to their experiences. In an uncanny way, a fire can keep on burning inside the mind, so to speak, a condition that can have long-term consequences for the mental health and psychosocial well-being of the affected community. This project, therefore, is guided by the question of how these shared emotional atmospheres can be embraced by taking up the healing power of poetry, and how creative writing could help affected persons to work through environmentally induced distress in a sensitive, embodied and creative way. The ability to name one's ecological emotions and articulate them through writing is an important step in processing what has happened and bringing to the surface thoughts and memories that have been diffuse or repressed in everyday life. Furthermore, the creative and shared work of composing a poem and the opportunity to take home a tangible result afterwards strengthens the resilience of individuals and communities. By juxtaposing ethnographic material from my own fieldwork with recent research done in fields related to eco-anxiety, this presentation will experiment with the possibilities of using poetry as a method for community engagement in the aftermath of forest fires.

Panel P015
Towards Atmospheric Care: Undoing Environmental Violence, Experimenting With Ecologies Of Support [Colleex Network]
  Session 1