Geographies of ageing and disaster: older people’s experiences of post-disaster recovery in Christchurch, New Zealand
Date: 30 April 2018
University of Exeter
PhD in Geography
It was 12:51pm on Tuesday the 22nd of February when a 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck the Canterbury region in New Zealand’s South Island. This earthquake devastatingly took the lives of 185 people and caused widespread damage across Christchurch and the Canterbury region. Since the February earthquake there has been 15,832 quakes in ...
It was 12:51pm on Tuesday the 22nd of February when a 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck the Canterbury region in New Zealand’s South Island. This earthquake devastatingly took the lives of 185 people and caused widespread damage across Christchurch and the Canterbury region. Since the February earthquake there has been 15,832 quakes in the Canterbury region. The impact of the earthquakes has resulted in ongoing social, material and political change which has shaped how everyday life is experienced. While the Christchurch earthquakes have been investigated in relation to a number of different angles and agendas, to date there has been a notable absence on how older people in Christchurch are experiencing post-disaster recovery. This PhD research attends to this omission and by drawing upon geographical scholarship on disasters and ageing to better understand the everyday experiences of post-disaster recovery for older people. This thesis identifies a lack of geographical attention to the emotional, affective and embodied experience of disaster. In response to this the thesis draws upon qualitative material collected from a six months fieldwork period to better understand the ways in which everyday life is lived out in an environment which has been social and materially altered. This thesis identifies three main interrelated themes which are productive for advancing understandings of how older people are situated in a post-disaster context. The first is that the concepts of emotion, affect and embodiment matter as they help inform how disasters are experienced and negotiated and the implication this has on various social and spatial relations. The second is that the disruption of the disaster to everyday places has implications on senses of belonging which is illustrated in highly temporal and affective dimensions. The third theme highlights the importance of recognising mundane and everyday practices as a means of coping and persisting with ongoing impacts of the disaster. This thesis argues that older people should not be seen as passive or homogenous agents in a disaster context but, in fact, are experiencing highly emotional impacts of disaster.
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