9: Expertise Versus Aspiration: Ethnography of Post-disaster Reconstruction in Emilia

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From a socio-cultural perspective, disasters are social events that can be spatially and temporally analysed as the product of the interconnections between the impact of a physical event and a specific territorial, socio-cultural and economic-political context. Accordingly, detailed knowledge, policies, decisions, behaviours and practices can increase the impacts of physical events and make socially produced responses unsuccessful. Ethnographically exploring the post-disaster reconstruction phase provides a deeper understanding of the socio-cultural dynamics triggered by disasters within this context. This chapter analyses the socio-cultural dynamics produced in Emilia (Italy) after the earthquakes of 20 and 29 May 2012 as a response to the post-disaster management by the techno-bureaucratic apparatus. It investigates the different perspectives on the reconstruction conceived and implemented by national and local institutions. It also explores aspirations nourished by the desires of the affected population and the role of professionals (architects, engineers and surveyors) involved in loss and damage assessment for accessing reconstruction financial contributions. The chapter relies on in-depth ethnographic research (2012–18) and explores the meaning of post-disaster reconstruction, the knowledge and power relations created, and the discourses produced by different actors.

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