Waiting during disasters: negotiating the spatio-temporalities of resilience and recovery

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Always spatial, waiting time is the observation of past-present-future, and temporality is the condition of being bounded by time. Both are mechanisms of state governance that control how and when families recover from rapid-onset humanitarian disasters. Analysing these spatio-temporalities reveals how families leverage resources to engage in acts of resilience that challenge the state’s spatio-temporal control of recovery. A case study focuses on the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico in 2017. We draw on qualitative longitudinal research to explore politicized spatio-temporal experiences of waiting for the state to fix public infrastructures; approve financial support; and provide access to affordable consumables—which all shape families’ recovery rates and pathways. Disaster-affected families do not passively wait for the state, and often leverage their incomes and social networks to engage in resilience-based strategies that ease their everyday lives and enable recovery while waiting for the state. Waiting feels more arduous for families with fewer resources and when there is uncertainty about access to the state and how and when to begin certain recovery activities. Waiting in disasters can also provide space for collective socio-political practices such as community gardening to emerge in neighbourhoods. For researchers of disasters, this article highlights the spatio-temporal dimensions of grassroots resilience and the ways in which state power and citizen agency interact in ways that subvert state control of families’ recovery rates in heterogeneous ways. Research on waiting during disasters has great potential to inform and reform governance for resilience and recovery.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGeographical Research
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jan 2023


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