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Accepted paper:

The deluged island: Environmental perception & liability on Samothraki since September 2017.


Eleni Kotsira (University of St Andrews)

Paper short abstract:

In September 2017, an unprecedented deluge extensively flooded a remote island in Northern Greece. This presentation will discuss the experience of this event in relation to the residents' perception of their surrounding environment and raise the issue of individual liability for its protection.

Paper long abstract:

In the morning hours of 26 September 2017, the village of Chóra on the island of Samothraki filled with rushing torrents carrying mud, rocks detached from the mountain and detritus. Extensive floods were also recorded elsewhere across the island and caused roads to collapse, destroyed individual properties and immobilised local administration for weeks to come. According to the locals, it was unprecedented for the mountainous village of Chóra to flood - as 'the water used to always flow downwards'. The island of Samothraki was declared in a 'state of emergency' from 26 September 2017 to 26 September 2018. Narratives subsequently created about this event mostly related it to an 'act of god', a 'disaster' or a 'deluge'. But what are the connotations of each of these terms? How are individual responsibilities for environmental sustainability framed in each case? What is the relation of the pre-existing soil erosion and overgrazing to this destructive event? Is there a perception of climate change among the residents and how can a remote and scarcely populated island play a central role in our understanding of the emerging environmental 'states of emergency'? During the 15 months of the fieldwork conducted for my doctoral research, and following my own experience of the same event, I combined semi-structured interviews with a large-scale online survey to find answers. This presentation will discuss some of these answers and provide few relevant suggestions regarding the potential and the challenges of conceptualising and understanding 'place' through the embodied experience of others.

panel AN03
Ecology and the Anthropocene