This panel compares ethnographic case studies on how people re-create everyday life in the wake of disaster. We aim to identify cultural differences and similarities in reactions to traumatic stress situations.
Everyday life in the wake of disaster is a topic that has rarely been investigated in depth. This panel proposes that improvised lifestyles in half-destroyed homes, in evacuation shelters or in temporary accommodation, offer powerful challenges to conventional norms and lifestyles. How do families and communities cope with the stress of sudden dislocation, the deaths of family members, loss of housing and property, and the disruption of communities? How do people organise their lives in shelters? What social structures do they create, and what do they refer to in doing so? What roles does religion play? What other spiritual or emotional guidance is available and accepted? How do people (re)create a sense of normality? Do they become more open to new ideas, or more conservative? How do they make plans for the future and realise them? What compromises do they make? What are the emotions entailed? And how does all this change over time? This panel takes a comparative approach. It brings together papers that investigate in detail the questions raised above in specific cases. We aim to identify the cultural differences and similarities in reactions to traumatic stress situations. Our goal is to assess the contribution that anthropologists can make to an understanding of human response to disaster. We hope that contribution may be of value to future disaster relief programmes.