Memory and Disasters

Disasters leave an indelible impression on communities, institutions and nations. While time and temporal dimension in disasters has usually been used only to distinguish between different phases of disasters it is important to analyze changes and aspects of memory over time. In recent years we have increasingly witnessed an institutionalization of disasters. In the aftermath of disasters formal evaluations are written, public hearings conducted and legal cases decided. Memorials and commemorative celebrations may become part of the institutionalization of disasters. Memorials/commemorations bear witness to what happened and inscribe a disaster in a community’s identity, sometimes become a destination for disaster tourism. They may contribute to healing processes, but when they twist interpretation in a particular direction, including some voices while excluding others, they become the object of negotiation and tensions. This may happen even when disasters themselves could not be blamed on anybody in particular. The question of how individuals or societies remember is therefore not independent of each other but an interactive process; thereby creating meaning to past disasters which generates important lessons learned. In this context, the proposed panel seeks to generate a discussion on disasters and different forms of memory through real time cases and examples.

Emmanuel Raju, University of Copenhagen (

Emmanuel’s research interests include disaster risk reduction; disaster recovery; and governance. He currently works on an EU-funded project on ‘Enhancing synergies for disaster prevention in the EU’. He also works on issues on Disasters and Memory; International frameworks on Disasters and is interested in issues of integration of climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction. He has conducted research in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, South Africa and Denmark.

From 2014-2016, he was part of Changing Disasters research project at the University of Copenhagen and was on the Core organising team of the North Eurpoean Conference on Emergency and Disaster Studies (NEEDS) in 2015 and 2017. Emmanuel holds a PhD from Lund University, Sweden. His PhD focussed on Disaster Recovery Coordination post-tsunami in India.