Disaster Reparations? Rethinking Disaster Recovery Through The Politics of Affect

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Disaster recovery holds an ambiguous status in debates on disaster politics. Whilst some scholars have documented recovery’s tendency to reproduce and exacerbate the historical conditions that underpin disasters and guide their uneven effects, others emphasise its potential to instigate attempts to transform these conditions and initiate forms of development premised on a commitment to building more just, equitable worlds. In this paper, we extend understanding of the politics of disaster recovery through interviews with governmental organisations planning recovery from Covid-19 across the world. The research sought to gather insight on the ramifications Covid was bearing on local communities and the arrangements that different agencies were making to mitigate these consequences. But these agencies also explored how Covid was initiating reappraisal of the current configuration and distribution of basic infrastructures that support collective life too. From these interviews, we elaborate on the notion of ‘disaster reparations’ as a potential ethos that could underpin future forms of disaster recovery. Reparations first addresses ways of making sense of disasters through the different affects that arise from lived encounters with their real time unfolding. Drawing on the work of Lauren Berlant, we argue that these affects signal the pervasiveness of ‘feeling historical’ about disasters; situating their unfolding within broader historical processes and conditions said to constitute our general contemporary moment. Secondly, we elaborate upon how these reparative affects instigate and connect with debates about how disaster recovery might be mobilised to attend to these conditions and thus address broader inequities. Overall, the paper extends scholarly understanding of the onto-epistemologies that organise recovery and the political responsibilities that might be integrated into recovery practices in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)514-525
Number of pages16
JournalThe Geographical Journal
Issue number3
Early online date16 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2023


  • Recovery
  • Disaster
  • Affect
  • Reparations
  • Resilience
  • covid-19

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global inequalities


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