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Continuity and change in housing and settlement patterns in post-earthquake Gujarat, India

Jennifer Erica Duyne Barenstein (World Habitat Research Centre, University of Applied Sciences of Southern, Lugano-Canobbio, Switzerland.)

International Journal of Disaster Resilience in the Built Environment

ISSN: 1759-5908

Article publication date: 8 June 2015

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Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to examine people's strategies to regain control over the socio-spatial organisation of their villages and transform their agency-built houses in culturally meaningful places post-disaster. In the aftermath of a disaster, building processes are often taken over by external agencies whose approach towards reconstruction is governed by considerations such as safety, efficiency, cost-effectiveness and – in some cases – also by an explicit will to trigger social transformations. As a result, reconstruction often entails dramatic changes in settlement location and morphologies, housing designs, building materials and construction processes.

Design/methodology/approach

Based on an ongoing interdisciplinary empirical research project focusing on communities’ patterns of adaptation to post-disaster relocated settlements in India, the paper examines people’s strategies to regain control over the socio-spatial organisation of their villages and to transform their agency-built houses in culturally meaningful places.

Findings

The paper shows that people are not passive recipients of external agencies’ often culturally insensitive project and that they have the capacity to transform externally imposed notions of appropriate housing to meet their cultural- and livelihood-specific needs. Based on a micro-level case study of a village in Gujarat, it is argued that underestimating communities’ capacity to rebuild their own houses and villages and the failure to recognise the inherent functionality of local housing and building culture often entail not only missing the opportunity to enhance their resilience but also, in some cases, may lead to increasing their vulnerability.

Originality/value

This paper presents a rare example of longitudinal research, calling attention to the long-term impacts of post-disaster reconstruction. It is of particular interest to scholars and humanitarian agencies concerned about the social consequences of relocation and reconstruction after natural disasters.

Keywords

Citation

Duyne Barenstein, J.E. (2015), "Continuity and change in housing and settlement patterns in post-earthquake Gujarat, India", International Journal of Disaster Resilience in the Built Environment, Vol. 6 No. 2, pp. 140-155. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJDRBE-01-2014-0009

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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