Dr. Vivian Choi, Enduring Disasters in Sri Lanka
This talk examines the intersections of two disasters in Sri Lanka: the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami and the decades-long civil war that ended in May 2009. Focusing on fieldwork conducted between 2008 and 2009, I outline the ways that the tsunami opened the door for national and social restructuring in Sri Lanka: the devastation of the tsunami and the logics of disaster risk management that followed it offered a political opening for new techniques of state power and projects of nation-building. This governmentality of disaster risk management is upheld by a logic that presumes that disasters, both natural and human-made, are ever-possible future threats that justify on-going practices and technologies of securitization. I show how state-mandated projects of preparedness breed insecurity, such that disasters, even after their supposed ends, continue to be a part everyday life. This is the enduring disaster: the on-going crisis of nationalism and nation-building in Sri Lanka, where crisis is the ordinary. Within this national time-space of disaster, then, I detail the experiences of those living amidst and with the ever-present possibility of disaster and how disasters are endured. These experiences constitute life in the aftermath in Sri Lanka, eliciting modes of enduring and persisting – a living through and with on-going crisis – that negotiates, but does not necessarily seek to transcend the technopolitics of state power.