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Banda Acehnese Life Narratives Contesting the Reconstruction Discourse of a Post-Tsunami City that is “Built Back Better”

in Asian Journal of Social Science
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Global vulnerability to natural hazards has increased in recent years but, as they represent complex intersection of social, political and economic factors, their impacts do not affect people equally. Simultaneously, a paradigm of “build back better” has emerged as a global agenda to promote resilience and continuum of relief, recovery and longer-term development. This article offers insights into the complexities of rebuilding by focusing on personal narratives collected between 2012 and 2015 in the aftermath of the December 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and ensuing tsunami. It offers seven accounts of how lived and embodied experiences of home and belonging in the post-disaster city of Banda Aceh offer modes of contestation for the concept of an Aceh that “is built back better”. Following the lives of people through their everyday experiences offers insights into the relations of power and the potential structures of violence that are embedded in the aftermath: layered exiles and displacement; hidden narratives of violence and grief; struggles over gendered expectations of being a good and respectable woman and man; the hierarchical political economy of post-conflict and tsunami reconstruction; and multiple ways of arranging lives and remembrance, cherishing loved ones and forming caring and loving relationships outside the normative notions of nuclear family and home.