Temporality of disasters: The politics of women's livelihoods 'after' the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka

Kanchana N. Ruwanpura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The devastation caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami in Sri Lanka is represented as a 'natural disaster'. Yet, the tsunami did not occur in a sociopolitical and historical vacuum. How people responded to the tsunami, the challenges of and attitudes to relocation and post-tsunami livelihoods, were/are shaped by uneven development, social exclusion and ethnonationalist war. All these responses are embedded in structures of gender, caste, class, and ethnicity. The tsunami, thus, brought to the forefront preexisting inequalities, showing up complexities in the temporality of disasters. Drawn from fieldwork in two coastal areas in the Southern and Eastern provinces, this paper shows how gendered structures within the local political economy influenced the ways that institutional actors as well as the displaced communities and women initially devised livelihood strategies. These reactions show how place matters as much as preexisting gendered political economy conditions and reveal the complex ways in which women continue to mediate and negotiate everyday responses in the aftermath of a 'natural' disaster.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)325-340
Number of pages16
JournalSingapore Journal of Tropical Geography
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 11 Nov 2008


  • Ethnic Dynamics
  • Conflict
  • livelihoods
  • Tsunami
  • Women
  • Sri Lanka


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