Year of selection 2010
Institution Université de Provence
Flooding is one of the most devastating natural hazards faced by certain populations. And yet, some people consider it a blessing. This is the case for certain communities in the Fiji islands, which are the focus of Emilie Nolet’s research. For them, flooding is a natural part of a cycle which, among other benefits, brings fertile land and provides the opportunity to put conflicts aside and strengthen both social and family ties.
Drawing from extensive fieldwork in the Fiji Islands, Nolet is examining traditional systems of preparedness, the socioeconomic impacts of floods and the social representations of risk. Nolet emphasizes how the perception and management of “catastrophic” events are, in fact, framed by a complex network of social dynamics and values. She thus shows the importance of the cultural aspect in the perception of risk and risk assessment.
As other insular groups of the Western Pacific, Fiji is exposed to a range of natural hazards including tropical cyclones, earthquakes, landslides, and floods. The global warming and the expansion of towns and squatter settlements in floodable areas, are some factors which contribute today to worsen the impact of floods. My research project investigates the issue of chronic floods management by local communities in three areas of Fiji. It falls within the domain of “disaster anthropology” and explores issues such as the perception and neglect of flooding risks by communities, traditional systems of preparedness, and rebuilding processes in affected areas.
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