This week we are joined by Dr Andrew Littlejohn of Leiden University to discuss disaster heritage around the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011. This heritage typically consists of ruins from catastrophic natural disasters that, while initially may be preserved for commemorative purposes, can end up being articulated to attract tourism to sites of mass death. Together we explore how disaster heritage fosters debate around the relationship between humans and their environments, as well as its potential to disrupt authorised heritage discourse. We also consider whether any disaster can be called ‘natural’ given the intrinsic human element to all disasters.
3/11: Shorthand used to refer to the Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing tsunami and nuclear disaster that took place on 11 March 2011.
Anthropogenic disaster: a disaster caused by human action or inaction.
Ishinomaki’s Okawa Elementary School: a public elementary school building in Miyagi Prefecture where more than 80 pupils and teachers lost their lives in the 2011 tsunami.
Minamisanriku Disaster Prevention Centre: a central disaster heritage site of the 3/11 tsunami in Fukushima
Ontological dissensus: debates around the relationship between people and the environments they live within i.e. the change of a religious practice to local heritage.
Shinsai ikō (震災以降): literally ‘disaster remains’, memorial buildings or structures related to the disaster.
Tensai (天災): natural or ‘heavenly’ disaster