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Of the earthquake and other stories: the continuity of change in Pakistan-administered Kashmir

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posted on 2023-06-08, 14:04 authored by Miguel LoureiroMiguel Loureiro
On October 8th 2005 the villages surrounding Chinati bazaar in Bagh district of Pakistani-administered Kashmir (PaK) were hit by an earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale that affected the lives of more than 3.5 million people in PaK and Khyber Pukhtunkhwa. In this thesis I attempt to understand, through the stories and narratives of the people of Chinati bazaar, how they lived through, made sense of, and dealt with the earthquake and its aftermath. I use participant observation and conversations to tell the stories of those affected by the earthquake in their own voices as much as possible. The storytellers of the bazaar lived through two types of events: the earthquake itself and the post-earthquake rehabilitation and reconstruction process. The latter brought with it both positive and negative impacts: if, on the one hand, it brought progress and a new hope that life could be ‘Built Back Better’, on the other hand, it brought a different type of suffering – one that led to a loss of honour and dignity, resulted in social upheavals, and led to the exclusion and marginalization of certain groups. In this thesis I focus on both these ‘events’. Through these stories I build an argument about post-disaster discourses of change. I argue that while the narratives of the storytellers of Chinati bazaar posit the earthquake as a point of rupture in their confabulated stories, from which the collective memory of the bazaar dates its movement towards becoming modern and global, these changes have their origins instead in ‘bigger’ stories of modernisation and globalisation that predate the earthquake and that highlight and emphasise more continuous processes of change that have been occurring over a longer period of time. In this thesis I analyse how these two competing discourses of rupture and dramatic change on the one hand, and slow, continuous change on the other, play out in the lives of the storytellers of Chinati Bazaar.


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