The Emergence of the "Widows' Village": Examining the Socio-Spatial Reconfiguration of a 'post'-Disaster Community in the Aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 17:30
Oral Presentation
Kaira Zoe CANETE, University of New South Wales, Australia
Disasters are widely regarded as events that result in loss, destruction and disruption of social life, organization, and institutions. Although this has led to a growing understanding of the social impacts of disaster, there is less attention given to what new landscapes of social relations and family life are produced in their aftermath. In this paper, I examine the case of Barangay 88 in Tacloban City, Philippines, an urban area that was heavily devastated by typhoon Haiyan in 2013. Barangay 88 is a populous village incurring the highest number of fatalities, most of which are men who stayed behind to secure their houses and property as storm surges destroyed the city. Thus, Barangay 88 is also known as “the widows’ barangay (village)”, alluding to the rise of households headed by widowed women who survived the disaster. Here, I investigate how gendered subjectivities, ideologies and identities are produced, contested, and employed through the socio-spatial reconfigurations of this ‘post’-disaster village. Specifically, the paper asks how the foregrounding of the “widow/woman” identity influences the deployment of ‘technologies of recovery’ by state and non-state actors; and how widow/women negotiate their social positions within their community, access disaster assistance, and mobilize their resources to rebuild their lives following the disaster. In doing so, the paper attempts to explore not only the new spaces of vulnerabilities that widow/women occupy in a post-disaster context, but also the spaces of opportunities for a more transformative recovery facilitated by changes in socio-spatial relations. By utilizing a feminist lens, drawing on an understanding of the intersectional, political, and spatially-situated natures of vulnerabilities and capacities, the paper endeavors to make visible women’s narratives of recovery that challenge the appropriation of fixed notions of vulnerabilities that run the risk of perpetuating gendered inequities within and beyond the disaster context.