Remembering future disasters: climate change, memory and anticipation in Ancash, Peru

PhD Project

The accelerated processes of climate change in the Andes over the last years have forced authorities to include only recently extreme events like flash floods in regulatory plans, even though they have played a key role in the configuration of urban environments in the region for centuries. These new forms of urban planning propose new practices of memory (how to reconstruct after a disaster?) and anticipation (how to be prepare against extreme events?) embodied in preparation and recovery infrastructure such as flood barriers, meteorological centers and even the relocation of parts of the city to risk-free areas. Such materialities, however, are never tension-free.

My doctoral thesis aims to understand how different practices of remembering and anticipating disasters play a key role in the way cities recover after and prepare for extreme climatic events. The project is ethnographic in nature and it takes the case of Ancash in Peru, a region that has suffered from several floods and seismic events over the last decades. The research builds upon the analysis of historical documents as well as in-depth interviews and participatory observation. With these sources I aim to explore processes of mourning and recovery in the aftermath of disasters and anticipation to future events taking place in a zone where scientific groups, lay citizens, indigenous cosmologies and state agencies come into conflict – sometimes in an irreconcilable way.

Climate change brings new challenges to this discussion as it requires thinking on risks with highly uncertain consequences. How can the memory of past events be articulated with highly uncertain futures? How do we anticipate events that we have not experienced so far?

ClimateInfrastructure & Energy



Tomás Usón
Doctoral Researcher