In 2007, a three-story-high tsunami slammed the small island of Simbo in the western Solomon Islands. Drawing on over ten years of research, Matthew Lauer provides a vivid and intimate account of this calamitous event and the tumultuous recovery process. His stimulating analysis surveys the unpredictable entanglements of the powerful waves with colonization, capitalism, human-animal communication, spirit beings, ancestral territory, and technoscientific expertise that shaped the disaster’s outcomes.
Although the Simbo people had never experienced another tsunami in their lifetimes, nearly everyone fled to safety before the destructive waves hit. To understand their astonishing response, Lauer argues that we need to rethink popular and scholarly portrayals of Indigenous knowledge to avert epistemic imperialism and improve disaster preparedness strategies. In an increasingly disaster-prone era of ecological crises, this provocative book brings new possibilities into view for understanding the causes and consequences of calamity, the unintended effects of humanitarian recovery and mitigation efforts, and the nature of local knowledge.
About the Author
Matthew Lauer is Professor of Anthropology at San Diego State University.
"Sensing Disaster is an excellent book that offers a sympathetic and sophisticated introduction to the anthropology of disasters and indigenous knowledge and place-making, and would be invaluable as a teaching resource. The balance of theory and ethnography is highly engaging, making the book accessible to a larger audience outside the academy. . . . as the arguments in the book are highly relevant for (and should be reshaping) development and disaster practice across Oceania."