Speeches and silences of the disaster. Ethnography of the 1999 floods in Cuxac d'Aude (France)
Laboratire RIVES UMR CNRS Environnement ville et société Lyon, France
The binary opposition relative to disasters ? remembering vs forgetting ? is linked with the temporal notion of a ?frozen time? during the crisis and a ?return to normal life? after the event. Two years after the catastrophic floods which have affected the south of France (Aude) in 1999, the four years ethnographical survey led at Cuxac d?Aude (five people killed and 80% of the village devastated) shows the limits of these static approaches. For a single interview, inhabitants tell dramatically the story of the 1999 event and at the same time put it into perspective with their projects for the future. Actually, in this place, they have to deal with a contradictory reality : they have experienced a complete disaster which can occur again and however they are still living there. At that scale, the relation to a disaster cannot be understood through cultural typologies but must be analysed through social dynamics that works in the ordinary time and the daily routines: remembering and forgetting the 1999 floods, trusting and denying the risk of the next disaster. Regarding the research methodology, the field work must deal on these issues with speeches and silences.
Starting from this point, we will analyse the testimonial practices of the inhabitants relative to the collective tragedy. In particular, how psychological assistance during the crisis and the development of a ?risk culture? called by stakeholders afterwards affect the way that inhabitants try to live with the disaster following dynamic attitudes?
We will also study the way different social groups interpret the floods and point out specific people responsible for the disaster. The existing local conflicts between farmers and suburban residents can explain how the ones or the others are accused. After the disaster, a part of the history of the village succumb into social oblivion. Nobody explain clearly how in the 1980?s, the social response to the economic vine crisis has led to transform old vineyards into individual housing. At list, the social context and configuration participate to the way the event enters in the local history and in the collective memory.