Beyond the spectacle: slow-moving disasters in post-Haiyan Philippines

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“At the mass grave, girl” said my key informant, when I asked her where she wanted to meet one Tuesday afternoon in Tacloban City, Philippines. She sounded blasé when she said this, as if she asked me to meet her in the market or the town plaza. Nothing in her tone indicated that it had been only two years since, on November 8, 2013, more than 6000 people perished from Typhoon Haiyan – one of the strongest storms to make landfall in recent history. Two thousand two hundred of these casualties are buried in the Holy Cross Memorial Park where she wanted to meet. For ethnographers, this seemingly mundane encounter provides a window into disaster-affected communities’ everyday experience years after a spectacular tragedy. While international media and humanitarian organizations have not fallen short in drawing attention to Typhoon Haiyan’s devastation, little is known about how everyday life unfolds once journalists and humanitarian workers parachute out of a disaster zone. Do disaster-affected communities “build back better,” as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction envisions?(1) Or do citizens get accustomed to forms of suffering caused by dispossession, abandonment, and collective trauma? These lines of inquiry inspired this thematic focus on “Slow-Moving Disasters in the post-Haiyan Philippines.” We hope to shift the gaze from spectacular disasters to ones that are “neither spectacular nor instantaneous but rather incremental and accretive.” (2) While there have been scholarly investigations on the causes of Typhoon Haiyan as well as the global community’s immediate response to the tragedy,(3) Haiyan’s legacies warrants a closer look
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58-66
Number of pages9
JournalCritical Asian Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2018


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