Geographies of fidelity: emergent spaces of third sector activity after the Canterbury earthquakes
Dickinson, Simon Bernard
Date: 21 December 2017
University of Exeter
PhD in Geography
This thesis examines creative trajectories of urban life that irrupted as a result of a series of devastating earthquakes in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2010-11. In particular, it focuses on third sector organisations (TSOs) that emerged during the recovery period, and examines how these organisations sought to inscribe ...
This thesis examines creative trajectories of urban life that irrupted as a result of a series of devastating earthquakes in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2010-11. In particular, it focuses on third sector organisations (TSOs) that emerged during the recovery period, and examines how these organisations sought to inscribe themselves within the re-emerging city. In doing so, I argue that the rupture afforded by the earthquakes opened up the possibility for the dominant practices of a complex political conservatism to be challenged through the emergence of new and previously restrained claims to the city that have manifested through these TSOs. These organisations have made use of the temporary recovery-spaces of the city, and appear to be working to embed their underlying values and politics in its renewal. Pertinently, this thesis comprehensively explores the ways these emergent organisations were impelled and sustained by improvisations that attempted to invoke and continue a fidelity to the earthquake event. The dominant narrative in the city has since critiqued these emergent organisations as being subsumed by a broader state project that is working to restore a neoliberal and conservative style of politics. Drawing largely upon in-depth participatory research within emergent TSOs, this thesis seeks to evaluate the notion that the creative forces of these organisations have become stripped of radical potential through a gradual incorporation into a more resilient version of the previous political orthodoxy. In doing so, it contributes to literatures on the political possibilities of the third sector by paying attention to the organisational practices that foster alternative logics of performative expression, political engagement and cultural imagination alongside formations of the seemingly neoliberal. By drawing attention towards the tentative probing of sociocultural and material fissures, practices of organisational experimentation and the ethical agency of staff, I argue that the sector might be viewed as fostering spaces through which alternative ethical and political sensibilities are being actively contested on a range of scales. Subsequently, this thesis explores how the foundations and relations that previously made the city legible have been shaken. Accordingly, the research offers a re-reading of the earthquakes that makes an argument for something more complex than an automatic return to the status-quo. It recognises the earthquakes as a series of violent geophysical events that prompted the irruption of some potentially disruptive imaginations, but explores perceptions that the disaster couldn’t impel others. Underpinning discussion on how these imaginations are grasped and sustained is an examination of how possibilities were afforded or curbed by interpretations of what the earthquakes represented (or enabled) in ongoing storylines of the city. Consequently, this thesis explores what it actually meant in practice for these organisations to be faithful to the event.
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