After the Tsunami: Disaster Narratives and the Remaking of Everyday Life in Aceh

Hardback: $80.00
ISBN-13: 9780824878269
Published: July 2019
Paperback: $28.00
ISBN-13: 9780824888282
Published: December 2020

Additional Information

214 pages | 5 b&w illustrations, 1 map
  • About the Book
  • The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami caused immense destruction and over 170,000 deaths in the Indonesian province of Aceh. The disaster spurred large-scale social and political changes in Aceh, including the intensified implementation of shari‘a law and an end to the long separatist conflict. After the Tsunami explores Acehnese survivors’ experiences of the deadly waves and the subsequent reconstruction process through the stories they tell about the disaster. Narratives, author Annemarie Samuels argues, are both a window onto the process of remaking everyday life and an essential component of it.

    Building on long-term ethnographic fieldwork, Samuels shows how the everyday work of recovery is indispensable for any large-scale reconstruction effort to succeed. Recovery is an ambiguous process in which grief remains as life goes on, where optimism and disappointment, remembering and forgetting, structural poverty and the rhetoric of success are often intertwined in individual and social worlds. Such paradoxes are key and form a thread through the five chapters of the book. Addressing post-disaster reconstruction from the survivors’ perspectives opens up space for criticism of post-disaster governance without reducing the discussion of recovery to top-down interventions. Individual histories, emotions, creativity, and ways of being in the world, the author argues, inform the remaking of worlds as much as social, political, and cultural transformations do.

    After the Tsunami is a provocative and highly significant contribution to studies of humanitarian aid and disaster, psychological anthropology, narrative studies, and scholarly studies of Indonesia and Southeast Asia. Its elegant style, pointed theorizing, and moving ethnographic descriptions will draw readers into Acehnese lifeworlds and politics. Its narratives attest to Acehnese ways of living with loss, within and across a history of colonial and postcolonial violence and suffering and a present of political uncertainty and hope.

  • About the Author(s)
    • Annemarie Samuels, Author

      Annemarie Samuels is assistant professor at the Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology, Leiden University.
  • Reviews and Endorsements
    • Annemarie Samuels conveys in moving, personal ways the force of the calamity that struck Aceh in 2004. After the Tsunami traces the everyday, sometimes heroic efforts to think, feel, rebuild, but mainly live through the loss, trauma, and moral challenge that followed.
      —John R. Bowen, Washington University in St. Louis
    • Annemarie Samuels displays the ethnographer’s trade at its best. Entering into everyday life at its most ordinary, she listens attentively to what is said, and notices as well what remains unsaid. Her careful fieldwork allows her to tease out the traces left by extraordinary experiences, producing a sensitive account of individual and collective trauma and the variegated responses it prompts. The result is a volume written with pellucid prose of great subtlety and insight.
      —Webb Keane, University of Michigan
    • This important work by Samuels adds to the corpus of scholarly studies focused on life in post-tsunami Aceh, and it adds fresh insights on post-disaster recovery. . . . [After the Tsunami] serves as a remarkable tool of reflection for those who are interested in disaster-struck Aceh and beyond.
      —Judith E. Bosnak, Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society, SOJOURN: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia, 35:3 (November 2020)
    • After the Tsunami provides a sensitive and deeply insightful account of the remaking of everyday life in post-tsunami Aceh through the experiences of individual subjects, which makes it a highly engaging read. . . . Samuels’s book compels with ethnographic detail and (private) disaster narratives of individual subjects.
      —Sophia Hornbacher-Schönleber, University of Cambridge, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 28:1
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