Because of its great impact on so extensive a geographic area, and because of the global scale of media coverage around the event, the Indian Ocean tsunami in December 2004 has significantly contributed to transforming disaster management policies and prevention practices at the international level. There is an increasing belief that, faced with events of this magnitude that are both unpredictable and difficult to control using only technological and forecasting equipment, it was essential to invest in local communities, spreading a “culture of preparedness” and an attitude of “resiliency” as instruments of protection and response. This explains the success and widespread dissemination of educational projects/programs aimed at developing awareness and disaster risk reduction skills as well as strengthening of existing capacities for coping with calamities and environmental threats. In the current scenario the catastrophe has become a terrain saturated with learning opportunities at all levels: from formal education experiences to non-formal and informal. Witness the proliferation of natural hazards education programs in schools, and the extensive use of simulations and so-called "scenario exercises" as a form of preparedness training being promoted in the most at-risk settings, as well as the success of participatory learning techniques used to stimulate resilient behavior among disaster survivors. The relevance of education in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) was formalized in the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015 as part of Priority 3, focusing on the "use [of] knowledge, innovation and education to build a culture of safety and resilience" at both the grassroots and policy levels (UNISDR 2005). The current International Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014), led by UNESCO, provides long-term focus for taking this agenda forward. From an anthropological perspective, the role of education and training in disaster management, mitigation and preparedness campaigns provides an opportunity to reflect on some crucial, often unspoken aspects related to the confluence, and in some cases to the actual collision, in times of catastrophe, between knowledge and beliefs, as well as on survival techniques which can differ considerably. The experience of the 2004 tsunami teaches how, in the "state of exception" (Agamben) that surrounds the current humanitarian emergency scenario, a comprehensive arena of actors (local and global, national and transnational, non-experts and experts) competes on the scene of disaster, often congesting operations instead of facilitating a real exchange of knowledge and good practices. In many cases, "expert knowledge" (medical, logistical, technical, geological, climatological, etc.) about disasters runs the risk of obscuring the experiences, interpretations and solutions to disaster response that do not receive as much legitimization, either because they are improperly relegated to the status of "local, indigenous, or traditional knowledge," or because they are considered "irrational, emotional, and non-scientific." In the context of pre- and post-catastrophe education and training, ethnography can be an important analytical tool to explain, interpret, and restore substance to the numerous pedagogical and epistemological viewpoints that permeate these special learning settings. The hypothesis that will take shape in this article, starting from the ethnographic data collected in post-tsunami Sri Lanka, is that the tensions that emerge between the different forms of situated knowledge and practices are at the root of many of the failures of disaster education. We will show how, in order to reduce the impact of disasters through capacity building for preparedness and resiliency, both local and global experts are involved in a common, though not peaceful, effort to interpret, shape and represent "the" disaster. In this way the catastrophe becomes a cognitive artifact that activates hypertrophic efforts of interpretation, generating multiple contradictory versions of the event itself, and of its causes and dramatic consequences. A single disaster thus fragments into different and conflicting sets of interpretations according to the experiences and identities of those affected and those who intervened. Meanwhile, disasters force both researchers and practitioners alike to confront the many and shifting faces of these “social imagined realities” (Hoffman and Oliver-Smith, 2003). The ethnographer, with his/her vocation towards reflexivity and immersion in the context of investigation, is no exception. By repositioning the disaster into its progressive and diachronic dimensions, retracing the play of refractions between the different sources of knowledge on the catastrophe, and participating actively in the learning laboratories that shape the emergency arena, the ethnographer contributes, perhaps more than others, towards making the disaster "real".
|Titolo:||Learning to survive in Sri Lanka: education and training in times of catastrophe|
|Data di pubblicazione:||2015|
|Appare nelle tipologie:||2.1 Contributo in volume (Capitolo o Saggio)|