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Disasters as betrayal – Bath Spa University

Disasters as betrayal

Wednesday 28 April, 2021 – Wednesday 28 April, 2021
3:00 PM – 5:00 PM


Part of the Hazard, Risk and Disaster (HRD) Research Lecture Series 2020-21.

What constitutes a “disastrous event” and who names it? Drawing on ethnographic and phenomenological research in the mountainscapes of Northern Pakistan, I explore how disasters catalyse conditions for social let-down. I think with my interlocutor: Niaz, whose life is further confounded by another form of betrayal, that of his body. As a result of a life-altering injury, Niaz’s bodily limitations placed significant constraints on his life long before the earthquake that devastated his Himalayan village. Niaz’s failed body (a body that refuses to “recover”), presents an important counterpoint to the disaster of the earthquake. However, Niaz does not attribute his most profound dysphoria to either of the two events, but the disloyalty of his best friend.

Niaz helps us to understand disasters as cascading forms of violence where small and large events coalesce, and relationships slip, fall, and possibly reconstitute. He compels us to consider that sociality is not always experienced as a form of plenitude, and perhaps disasters are not mere ruptures of a coherent lifeworld but part of the ongoing labour of inhabiting the world.

About the speaker

Dr. Omer Aijazi is an intersectional social justice scholar, critical theorist, and ethnographer working on questions of violence, disasters, and social repair in the mountainscapes of Northern Pakistan and Kashmir. He is interested in how people maintain the continuity of life in some viable form despite the violence it bestows. Currently, he is a Lecturer in Global Challenges at Brunel University London. He joined Brunel after completing a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) funded Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Toronto (Anthropology and Religion).

He is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Victoria (UVic) and a Visiting Research Fellow at the Center for Studies in Religion and Society. At UVic, he directs his latest project on Muslim affective life and “Otherwise” possibility amidst disaster and violence, which is funded by a SSHRC Insight Development Grant. His work has appeared in journals such as Himalaya, Women’s Studies Quarterly, and the International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters. His writings can be accessed online.

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