UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Post-Wenchuan earthquake rural reconstruction and recovery in Sichuan China : memory, civic participation and government intervention Wu, Haorui


On May 12, 2008, an earthquake of a magnitude of 7.9 struck Wenchuan County, Sichuan Province, China, which affected 45.5 million people, causing over 15 million people to be evacuated from their homes and leaving more than five million homeless. From an interdisciplinary lens, interrogating the many interrelated elements of recovery, this dissertation examines the post-Wenchuan earthquake reconstruction and recovery. It explores questions about sense of home, civic participation and reconstruction primarily based on the phenomenon of the survivors of the Wenchuan Earthquake losing their sense of home after their post-disaster relocation and reconstruction. The following three aspects of the reconstruction are examined: 1) the influence of local residents’ previous memories of their original hometown on their relocation and the reconstruction of their social worlds and lives, 2) the civic participation that took place throughout the post-disaster reconstruction, 3) the government interventions overseeing and facilitating the entire post-disaster reconstruction. Based on fieldwork, archival and document research, memory workshops and walk-along interviews, a qualitative study was conducted with the aim of examining the earthquake survivors’ general memories of daily life and specific memories of utilizing space in their original hometown. This dissertation attempts to contribute toward improvement of post-disaster reconstruction (particularly in China) by considering survivors’ social and individual memories, which conveyed their place experience regarding their sense of home in their day-to-day lives in their original home. This understanding is applied to explore the survivor’s sense of home after the post-Wenchuan earthquake relocation and reconstruction. This dissertation argues that the disregard of the social dimension in the relocation and physical reconstruction process resulted in failure of a creation of a sense of place among the inhabitants in the newly-built environment. Discussed also is how the local residents’ previous place-making experience played a pivotal role in the development of a new sense of home and in the process of social reconstruction in the new environment. It is suggested that government should guarantee the physical foundation of the reconstruction and ensure the local residents’ input will be utilized towards enhancing and improving the quality of post-disaster reconstruction, recovery and community resilience.

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