Accepted Paper:

Remembering disasters: memorial monuments, empowerment and resilience  

Author:

Sebastien Boret Penmellen (Tohoku University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper investigates the ideas and practices leading to the conception of monuments commemorating disasters and their victims. In particular, I test the hypothesis (Eyre 2006) that the active participation of the victims in memorializing processes increases their resilience and sustainability.

Paper long abstract:

This paper investigates the ideas and practices surrounding the conception of monuments commemorating disasters and its victims. On 11th March 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and an annihilating tsunami destroyed entire coastal cities, caused the death of 15,083 individuals and left 3,971 missing bodies. In order to deal with the trauma and their losses, these communities and volunteer groups have developed various modes of remembering the tragic event and the dead through formal and informal, public and private, religious and non-religious, tangible and intangible, acts of remembrance. One of these strategies consists in the erection of a monument where mourners, survivors, and other visitors may join their hands (tewo awaseru) in order to express their respect, grief, solidarity and so on. Sprouting along the bared coastline, these markers vary from simple wooden poles to monumental structures. If anthropologists have already provided accounts about the politics following the erection of memorial monuments, and those of disasters in particular (Simpson 2008), the daily debates and practices leading to their conception and erection have often remained undocumented. Drawing from first hand observation and participation, this paper proposes to begin filling the gap by discussing the processes surrounding such a project in a traditional neighborhood of Japan which, having been wiped out by the tsunami in 2011, shows no signs of reconstruction three years on. In particular, I test the hypothesis (Eyre 2006) that the active participation of the victims in the memorialization of disasters increases the resilience and sustainability of the renewed communities.

Panel P118
Mourning, memorialization and recovery in post-disaster contexts