Scorched Communities

Meaning, Memory and Morality after Wildfire

The forest fire that occurred in the Swedish province of Västmanland in August 2014 have had devastating effects on the environment, but have also had a deep psychological and social impact on local communities in the area. Focusing on the years after the event, this research project seeks to develop knowledge about how individuals and organizations have managed and recovered from this natural disaster to identify factors that promote and / or hinder recovery and reconstruction, both in the short term and in a longer-term perspective.The project investigates decision makers’ and the residents' experiences from the actual fire and its material consequences, as well as adaptations to geographical and social changes in the area. Furthermore, the different experiences and understandings of how the event has been handled and how it has been produced in the media among different social actors will be subject to review and analysis.

The analytical framework includes social theories on the processes of meaning making and remembering, on moral argumentation and medial framing, which together form a broad multidisciplinary framework. Various qualitative methods, including participant observation, interviews with key actors, media and document analysis, are applied in the gathering of empirical data.

The results of the project are expected to have societal relevance in several aspects, by providing input ​​for recovery in affected local communities, as well as contributing to strengthening principles and practice at local and regional levels both during and after extreme events.

The project is financed by the Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning (FORMAS) and carried out in collaboration with researchers at the Swedish Defence University (2014-2018).

Susann Baez Ullberg, PhD
Associate Senior Lecturer
Uppsala University, Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology
Box 631, 751 26 Uppsala