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Sonja Antoine, Jane Callaghan University of Northampton

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1 Sonja Antoine, Jane Callaghan University of Northampton

2  Ivan, cat 4, hit Grenada on 19 Sept 2004.  90% of the country affected, 40% of buildings destroyed. (Kitcher, Chehil and Roberts 2005).  Economic, psychological and sociopolitical impact immense for islanders.  Explore how Ivan changed people’s lives and how they have rebuilt their lives following the disaster.  Compare with responses to Katrina

3  Literature on surviving natural disasters focused on individualising narratives of trauma  focus on the individual, reacting to (typically) a single event (Osofosky, 2004)  Talking to professionals working in Grenada – people did talk about the trauma of this event, but it was connected to events BEFORE the hurricane, and in the light of a sustained period of recovery following it.  Also part of a community story of recovery  We argue experiences of hurricane and recover are constituted within a broader life narrative and framed within the context of community  Move from pathology-oriented account, looking instead at young people in communities, recovering and coping.

4  17 interviews with young adults (18-25) in 2008.  Focused on experiences during and after the hurricane, looking at coping, and experiences of care and intervention.  Explore cultural and contextual issues that emerged arising in family and community narratives, and locate these in relation the Grenadians people’s experiences of the response of the government to their crisis.  ‘Jus’ how me pick up me roof jus’ so they want me to pick up me life too, you hear dat’

5  Kayla: After Ivan, it’s like we were afraid, I was actually afraid to uhmm plan for the future. I felt like if I made plans again a wind might just come and blow it away again, so it made me feel like, okay, you have to stop, and can’t plan, everything was in such disarray, you can’t say well yeah, I’m gonna start grad school next year, and you don’t know that, you would have to work or something, it was just this big moment of IF just waiting for things to, to start organizing themselves, so that you can actually organize yourself.

6  Storm as metaphor for the sense of disruption, vulnerability and tenuousness that the storm engendered.  Internalised as part of her psychic organisation – physical world recapitulated in the inner world.  The physical world becomes key to recovery in the wake of the natural disaster  the need to wait for “things to start organizing themselves, so that you can actually organize yourself”.  The aftermath, and recovery does not reside WITHIN the individual – rather her sense of psychic reorganisation depends on the reorganisation of the outer, which must be done in the material and communal world:  only as ‘they organize themselves’ can she start to rebuild her own life.

7  Need for communal support  Lack of counselling services historically – these were in place in the university after Ivan  But participants needed something more ‘in society’ – need for a sense of community, and of being ‘held’ by that community

8  Carla: Well from my experience, I think that if I really wanted to sit down and talk to somebody about what Ivan did to me, or how I feel about it, cannot off my head think of anyone…. Well it’s not good when you like, you have a society that doesn’t have any patience to sit and listen to somebody else when they have genuine problems, you know, makes us sound kinda heartless…. Moving on is fine. I mean everybody has to get up, but I mean you just can’t expect people to get up the next day and be perfectly functional, you have to have some kinda system in place or something for people to sit down and adjust, you know, like there was no time for adjusting, or maybe there was and I missed it. I ain’t know. (chuckles)

9  Participants noted a curious contradiction in the way in which Grenadians recovered from the hurricane.  Family as key support network in Grenadian community.  Felt supported by the family and thus by community, but this was materially expressed.  lack of emotional and psychological comfort.  The need for emotional support emerges IN THE INTERVIEW context as an absence  Support is there and is reflected through the crying with each other, the being there to provide for a physical need.  Supported by family, but ‘not the talking kind’

10  Sasha: So forget that, house gone, everything gone and that happen to you. I just broke down crying because I can’t find nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing… I mean, that is when I just broke down, I mean I just started to cry. I mean I was by well it’s my cousins girlfriend, but I call her aunty, so well nothing happen to them and they were right next door so we had to go over there and rest the little bits that was remaining over dey at that point in time. And when she realize I break, she had to hold me, and she broke down too and she was like don’t worry, ah go take care of you.

11  Carla talks about “society not having patience”.  Culturally, individuals not ‘allowed’ to dwell on a problem.  Pragmatism in dealing with issues in a hands on way, rather than rumination.  Carla: Well, for me, it was good in that, uhmm, you got the support you needed, material wise, but uhmm, you had the support of your family, but to say well okay, people really coming and sit down and talk to you, find out why this happen, how you feel, it didn’t really have that.  Counter intuitively, the lack of this resource was understood here almost as a feature of a more communally oriented society.  In a small island society, emotional issues are understood as tightly policed and regulated, and pressure to behave ‘appropriately’ is strong.

12  Kayla: I think it’s the society, it’s just, ah, there’s this very strict, unwritten set of rules about what you’re supposed to be, how, how you’re supposed to be, how you’re supposed to deal with your life and there’s this like you know like uhmm if something happens to somebody and you really make a big deal about it, you’ll hear something like ‘what do he? How come he can’t just take care of himself?’ So you know, like that. So that’s underlying everything.  Paul: I think, seeing how resilient our people were at the time, I felt that if I wasn’t as resilient as they were, I would have let them down and failed, so that helped.

13  Importance of values of self-sufficiency and resilience within Grenadian culture.  small, island based community, within which quirks of character, difficulties in managing emotional problems, or strangeness of behaviour become extremely visible  Left to be, unless it affects the group, but that’s not quite the same as ‘accepted’.  For Carla, thisexperience of regulated emotionality (and accompanying humour that is used as a coping strategy within Grenadian culture) has socio-political roots:

14  “I guess it goes back to our culture, we’re black and we’re slaves, and they didn’t have, I mean, come on, in my opinion, yeah, back in the day there was no time for sitting and be like ‘oh well, Massa do me this, or Massa do me that’, and we’re thought, we’re grown up thinking ok just deal with whatever your problem and well move one from there. I don’t think people really have patience. I mean even though you might be like poor girl, something wrong with her, I don’t really think they will really want to sit down and hear the long story, and if they do actually sit down it’s often times it’s just to go back and tell someone else what happens.”

15  Idealisation of collectivism in western psychological literature – belonging and group identity.  However, here we see that social cohesion rests on fairly strictly policed social norms and values.  Laungani (2002) unity maintained through conformity and a strong sense of duty and expectation.  This sense of the importance of doing as ‘we’ expect comes through very strongly in accounts such as Kayla’s.  Individual needs are often subverted to a powerful sense that indulging those needs runs the risk of being labelled as melodramatic, and of breaching the private / public split that is so important within Grenadian society.

16  If our sense of meaning and self-identity is constituted socially, and if that society labels emotions and emotional expression as ‘private’, what happens when something overwhelming and communal happens that pushes private grief and suffering into a more public domain?  Ivan, after all, happened to an entire community, not just to individuals.  Idealised visions of collectivism – anticipate the needs of all people would be met collectively.  While this certainly happened at the physical level, the psychological experience is more complex.  Throughout the interviews, participants refer to ‘doing’ rather than talking. In a pragmatic, hands on society, emotional and psychological concerns are rendered either private or invisible.

17  Hurricane pass that is it. Talking about it won’t bring anything back. Talking about it won’t make anything better… For you it is important to understand, but for me it’s just like, get up in the morning, wash your face….  I mean, after Ivan you have no choice but to pick up from where you left off and continue as if nothing happened. Nobody wanted, people were trying to look at it from a comical sense, they made a play, uhmm, and everybody had their jokes and the experiences, but I doubt if you wanted to sit and talk about well I have some issues, or I have a problem, you know, uhmm, it really messed me up I don’t think anybody had patience for that, ok, so, so in a sense, yah I could relate.

18  This more pragmatic, hands-on approach to life, reflected even in Ezekiel’s statement, is very much characteristic of the approach fostered in Grenadian community.  Is this repression? A denial of emotion?  Happened to the entire community, deal with by the community and for the community?  Perhaps not a ‘wrong response’ (as therapeutic models would suggest) so much as ‘a response’.

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