Author Q&A Session: Marjaana Jauhola

Author of Post-Tsunami Reconstruction in Indonesia, Marjaana Jauhola, discusses her title and what attracted her to this topic as an area of study.

Since The 10th anniversary of the Aceh peace process is this month you can take advantage of 20% discount* off this title - use code EDC20 at the checkout.

Author Interview | Marjaana Jauhola

1. What lead you to writing Post-Tsunami Reconstruction in Indonesia?

For years I had been trained in gender and development questions both at the university and more informal gender training workshops and since 1995, coinciding with the 4th UN World Conference on Women in Beijing, my work experience in both development and humanitarian aid was focusing around the question of women’s empowerment and promotion of gender equality through gender mainstreaming approach. The longer I gained experience of ’being a gender expert’ the more troubled I was that these ‘expert positions’ gave very little space for do critical reflection on what the practices of ’doing gender’ actually do –to bodies and their desires. Or to put it in other words: what kinds of lives we celebrate and imagine as possible and what becomes unintelligible or impossible to imagine.

2. What is your favourite example in the book?

In the book I discuss both the ways in which gender aid, through the concepts, tools and everyday practices, limits and controls the ways in which we imagine lives in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean earthquake and the tsunami, but I also turn my attention to question of agency, and resistance that emerges to challenge these very same imagined lifeworlds. Although I identify narrate several examples in which the challenging takes place through action, demonstrations, speech acts and so on – including reinterpretations of Islamic concepts of tawhid and rahmatan nil alamin - I think for me, the subtle and modes that may remain totally invisible, or require sensitivity – connectedness to another human being. The example that I offer in the book (page 78) is that of the invisibility of discussion around the questions of plurality of gender identity and sexuality, that was challenged by the pressing silence on the recorder and tears falling on the cheeks of both of myself as a researcher and my interviewee when narrating a case of homophobic hate crime that had taken place in 2007.

3. Tell us an unusual fact about yourself and your book; what do you hope resonates with the reader?

The initial delusion and claustrophobia I saw in the ‘business’ of doing gender has changed thanks to the research on the topic: I now see that radical potential is possible to locate ‘within the belly of the beast’ – it is happening already and right now – it is more of gaining an active relationship to processes, people, dynamics and relationships – opening ones eyes and mind for the critique that challenges aid workers on our assumptions of gender, race, geopolitics, and alternative ways of being in this world.

4. Can you describe your book in one sentence?

The book offers a critical feminist and queer reading of gender mainstreaming policy approach in post-tsunami Aceh, and suggests that rather than being technical, or lacking political alternatives, it is full of life, practices of negotiation and resistance, and thus, suggests new ways of understanding what ‘political’ for feminisms in disasters is and can be about.

5. What first attracted you to this topic as an area of study?

Years of promoting and advocating women’s rights and gender equality agenda, and concretely seeing in Aceh how the concept of gender became politicized, both locally, but also globally. In the preface of the book I give an example of this: the international NGO that I was working in 2006 had conducted an in-depth study of the sexual violence in the post-tsunami temporal housing provided for the tsunami survivors – with devastating results. Despite the requests by the local women’s activists and gender officers from the other aid organisations, the report was never published, nor discussed internally to learn from it and alter the reconstruction projects.

6. Have you read any Routledge books? If so, which is your favourite Routledge book at the moment?

I follow several Routledge series regularly, including Intersections, Popular Culture and World Politics, yet most influential book for some of my more recent auto-biographical writing projects has been Autobiographical International Relations: I, IR edited by Naeem Inayatullah.

7. Do you have plans for future books? What’s next in the pipeline for you?

I am writing a monograph Scraps of Hope based on the three years of street ethnographic research in Banda Aceh focusing on the transformation of a provincial capital in the aftermath of the tsunami and implementation of a peace agreement. In this research I focus on how lived and embodied experiences of post-disaster daily life in the city of Banda Aceh offer modes of contestation for the concept of an Aceh that ‘is built back better’. Following the lives of people through their everyday routines offers insights into the relations of power and the potential structures of violence that are embedded in the aftermath: layered exiles and displacement; hidden narratives of violence and grief; struggles over gendered expectations of being a good and respectable woman and man; the hierarchical political economy of post-conflict and tsunami reconstruction; and multiple ways of arranging lives and remembrance, cherishing loved ones and forming caring and loving relationships outside the normative notions of nuclear family and home.

It will come out in an electronic format allowing combination of text, photographs, mini documentaries and links. The format and the book content is being developed in a collaboration with a documentarist Seija Hirstiö, programmer Jukka Turunen and producer Ariyuki Suzuki with the funding from the Finnish Cultural Foundation. For further details, see http://scrapsofhope.info/aceh/.

*This 20% discount is only available on personal purchases ordered directly from our website, and cannot be combined with any other offer or discount. Valid until 31st September 2015.

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