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What does transformation look like? Post-disaster politics and the case for progressive rehabilitation

Blackburn, S. ORCID: (2018) What does transformation look like? Post-disaster politics and the case for progressive rehabilitation. Sustainability, 10 (7). 2317. ISSN 2071-1050

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To link to this item DOI: 10.3390/su10072317


This paper responds to the ‘deliberate transformation’ discourse within climate change and disaster scholarship. It calls for a cautious approach to deliberate transformation as a practice space for non-governmental organisations (NGO), arguing that greater clarity is still needed on precisely what form these transformations may take, how and where they might be stimulated, and—most importantly—who decides. Drawing on a case study of post-disaster NGO interventions in the Andaman Islands following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the paper analyses the role of community-based, rights-oriented education and advocacy programmes in opening space for communities to critically reflect on state responsibilities, capacities, and weaknesses. It argues that these shifts were potentially transformative for the ways local people interact with the state in Little Andaman; however, it also surfaces pragmatic and ethical challenges to the notion of ‘deliberate transformation’ in practice. The data reveal transformations to be complex, spontaneous, and fundamentally political, with simultaneously divergent pathways of change and re-entrenchment; this presents a deep challenge to external agencies seeking to instigate transformation in planned, linear ways over known timescales. A further challenge relates to deliberate transformation as a normative endeavour. The paper argues that any attempt to actively instigate deliberate transformations according to pre-determined visions held by external actors is a direct contradiction to the principle that progressive transformation—as defined in the literature—should be shaped deliberatively by the values and priorities of citizens themselves. To avoid diluting the radical power of transformation as a principle, the paper proposes progressive rehabilitation as an alternative approach in post-disaster contexts, requiring a transformation of the NGO itself from ‘doing to’ to ‘doing with’ citizens, with an emphasis on supporting locally-defined futures. The paper thickens the conceptualisation and evidence base for transformation pathways, with implications for research and practice.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:No Reading authors. Back catalogue items
Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Geography and Environmental Science
ID Code:110633


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