9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN08 Disaster and Social Crisis

2009-09-05 11:00:00 2009-09-05 12:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 11:00 - 12:30 Politics and Practices of Remembering Disasters Building AA, AA.226

Ways to remember disasters - inclusions, exclusions and hierarchies

Some disasters are given much attention and get their own place in history. But how are these events remembered in society and why is it that some disasters are forgotten right away? These are the questions that this paper deals with.

It will be argued, that there is a strong focus on the situation of citizens that suffers from, are affected or hurt by spectacular disasters. At least for a while after the event has taken place. The citizens get acknowledgement and eagerness to express care and support can be identified. There is especially focus on the psychological consequences and ways of dealing with traumas. This care and acknowledgement can on the one hand be seen as a strength, but the paper suggests, that it on the other hand can be seen as a weakness, that consequences of disasters primarily are understood as a burden for individuals instead of a collective and social problem. Disasters are remembered as events that affected and hurt a number of people, not as events that collective societal actors can learn from and work to prevent in the future.

The paper further deals with the discussion why citizens affected or hurt from spectacular events only get their situation acknowledged in a certain period after an event has occurred and why the rest of society loose interest after a while. There can be a number of reasons for this, but the influence of a hierarchy of grief and affectedness is discussed in the paper. An investigation of such a hierarchy can also shed light to the question why some disasters get less or no attention, why they get excluded from the memory of society and are forgotten.

The paper finally discusses the power to define whom to acknowledge, what to remember, what to forget and what to learn from a disaster.

The analysis of the processes in relation to a technological disaster on Danish ground is based on both media texts and qualitative interviews.