Infrastructures of Social Repair: Insights from Northern Pakistan and Kashmir
This paper examines linkages between social repair and reconstruction following natural disasters. In my long-term ethnographic research with marginalized disaster survivors in the Himalayan region of Northern Pakistan and Kashmir, I have come to understand social repair as a heuristic device to capture those genres of life which are crucial for attaining liveable presents and viable futures. In my current thinking, social repair captures those plurality of processes, embodiments and decision-making which enable disaster survivors to carve hospitable lives for themselves despite overwhelming structural constraints. Therefore, I understand social repair as tense, urgent and palpable. Infrastructure plays an important role in how social repair unfolds and is enacted. The role of infrastructure in facilitating or impeding social repair is particularly salient in the Himalayan region where the built environment is incrementally negotiated between local communities and the Pakistani state. In this paper, I seek to particularly examine two things: 1) how humanitarian and state-led reconstruction following the 2005 Northern Pakistan and Kashmir earthquake intercepted or interrupted everyday acts of social repair and 2) how disaster survivors sought to exceed these interruptions. I conclude that natural disasters are then not just “mere glitches in the reproduction of life” (Berlant, 2016) which warrant the replacement of broken infrastructure necessary for sociality to extend, but also revelatory spaces to understand forms of life emerging from within its very brokenness. In that sense, we can no longer afford to understand disaster reconstruction along separate domains of the social and the physical.