Preface and Acknowledgements to the First Edition
This collection of ethnographic studies explores how people experienced the aftermath of the tsunami and nuclear disasters that afflicted Japan on 11 March 2011. By focusing on the period between the initial chaos caused by large-scale and sudden destruction and the formation of a recognizable trajectory of rebuilding, it aims to enhance our understanding of 3.11 and more generally of the human consequences of disaster. This was the period when outsiders, be they from nearby Sendai, from Tokyo or Osaka, or from abroad, ventured into the areas of north-eastern Japan where the tsunami had hit to provide aid and relief. New sets of relationships were being forged or negotiated in evacuation shelters and temporary housing. People were frantically trying to assess the effects of becquerels and millisieverts on human health while the search for bodies under the debris was still going on. Communities were hatching relocation plans and imagining possible futures, even as rituals for the dead were being performed. It was a period when people struggled to find narratives that could explain what had happened, but nevertheless had to sort out how to move ahead.
It is impossible to make overarching scholarly or even systematic generalizations about this important, complex and chaotic phase. The contributors to this volume have thus looked at specific issues in specific locations to explore the uneven fits and starts of relief and recovery, the tentative, incomplete, sometimes misguided attempts to recover community and lost social relations, and the efforts to...
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