4: Adaptive Disaster Memories: Voices from the Post-earthquake Irpinia (23 November 1980)

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The earthquake that occurred on 23 November 1980 has been one of the largest disastrous seismic events in Italy. It affected a large area in Southern Italy, destroyed dozens of towns and caused thousands of deaths. After four decades, the traces of destruction, temporary solutions and reconstruction are still evident in the landscape. Above all, we can find personal experiences and interpretations of these long-term processes in the memory of affected population. Through the analysis of some testimonies collected in the affected areas, this chapter illustrates how the inhabitants perceive the changes that occurred and transmitted their experiences within the community and through the generations. These changes concern the sudden disappearance of the lived space, the loss of human life, the mourning, the choices for reconstruction and the economic changes, as well as the trauma and a shared social experience that has influenced people’s lives and expectations for years. These elements are embodied in the social fabric and, in their testimonies, local communities give a new meaning to their history. The chapter demonstrates that a long adaptation process begins after each disaster. A perspective on memory helps us to investigate in depth the complex relationships between human beings and their environment.

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