Expiry date of a disaster: Memory anchoring and the storm surge 1962 in Hamburg, Germany


Disasters are events often perceived to be confined in time and in space. In this paper we challenge this assumption by focusing on the memory of disaster as key aspect through which it is possible to go beyond the “there and then” of a disaster. By applying the concept of memory anchoring, we illustrate the importance of memory for its repercussions on the present “here and now” as well as on the future way of dealing with disasters. We apply the framework of memory anchors to the case study of the Storm Surge 1962 and the following flood disaster, which took place in Hamburg, Germany and marked a turning point in Hamburg's disaster history. This disaster is locally constructed as memory anchor by those who directly experienced it, and those who have to deal with natural hazards in the city's administration. We scrutinize how different actors enact the memory anchoring process and with what aims. The process of memory anchoring is reflected in locational and societal representations and therefore supports the imaginaries of space and time of the disaster. However, which role can memory anchors play in future disaster awareness and management? Which role do they play in policy decisions on flood management? And how can memory anchors impact future generations in their dealing with disasters? The question remains on how (and if) it is possible to prevent disappearance of memory anchors without the need of a further disaster.
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