The Golden Wave

The Golden Wave

Culture and Politics after Sri Lanka’s Tsunami Disaster
Michele Ruth Gamburd
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 12/23/2013
Format: Paperback 10 b&w illus., 2 maps
ISBN: 978-0-253-01139-8
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In December 2004 the Indian Ocean tsunami devastated coastal regions of Sri Lanka. Six months later, Michele Ruth Gamburd returned to the village where she had been conducting research for many years and began collecting residents' stories of the disaster and its aftermath: the chaos and loss of the flood itself; the sense of community and leveling of social distinctions as people worked together to recover and regroup; and the local and national politics of foreign aid as the country began to rebuild. In The Golden Wave, Gamburd describes how the catastrophe changed social identities, economic dynamics, and political structures.

Author Bio

Michele Ruth Gamburd is Professor and Chair of Anthropology at Portland State University. She is author of The Kitchen Spoon’s Handle: Transnationalism and Sri Lanka’s Migrant Housemaids and Breaking the Ashes: The Culture of Illicit Liquor in Sri Lanka and editor (with Dennis B. McGilvray) of Tsunami Recovery in Sri Lanka: Ethnic and Regional Dimensions.


“Gamburd’s political ethnography of this disaster is brilliant, poignant, and will help anthropology in its nascent theorizing of disaster, and will help all of those who want to understand how people make sense and recover from disaster.”
 — David L. Brunsma, Virginia Tech

“[Provides] a rich human context to a catastrophic event too often reduced by statistics and policy analysis to an exemplary abstraction (or by sensationalism to a kind of voyeurism) . . . . I can well imagine general readers picking it up to try to figure out why the tsunami was 'golden' and getting hooked by the many stories.”
 — Mark Whitaker, University of Kentucky

“[G]amburd shows that all of the narratives demonstrate how 'Under cover of disaster, capitalist interests can pursue neoliberal agendas, humanitarian workers can implement culturally inappropriate policies, and people pursuing international economic and political agendas can ignore or refuse local input'--a story that is repeated over and over from Nicaragua to New Orleans to Pakistan and beyond, and to which Gamburd has added rich narrative coupled with insightful analysis.71.2 2015”
 — Journal of Anthropological Research

“The Golden Wave would be ideal for use in introductory-level undergraduate anthropology or sociology courses on disasters and humanitarian aid. It would also be well placed in introductory courses on economic anthropology.”
 — The Journal of Asian Studies

“Michele Ruth Gamburd's new book contributes rich views into the micro-dynamics of local experiences of relief and reconstructions projects.Vol. 73.1-2 2014”
 — Asian Ethnology

“Sensitively written, this an articulate social anthropologist's examination of the immediate and ongoing much longer impact of 2004's devastating Indian Ocean tsunami. . . This is the best kind of microstudy. It merits much praise for its thick description and authenticity. . . Highly recommended. ”
 — Choice

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Political Ethnography of Disaster

Wijitha’s Story

1. That day: Chaos and Solidarity

Dr. Priyanka’s Story

2. Deaths: Fate and Vulnerability

Pradeep and Manoj’s Story

3. Short-term Camps: Chaos and the Crafting of Order

Sumendra’s Story

4. Housing: Temporary Shelters, Permanent Homes, and the Buffer Zone

Lalitha’s Story

5. Dangerous Liaisons: The Power, Peril, and Politics of Mediating between Donors and Recipients

Jagath’s Story

6. Business Recovery: Tourism and Construction

Dayawansa’s Story

7. Reconstructing Class: Discourse on Theft, Loot, Cheating, and Gifts

Fazmina’s Story

8. The Politics of Corruption: Accusations and Rebuttals

Tharindu’s Story

9. Citizenship and Ethnicity: The Tsunami and the Civil War


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