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Embodied narratives of disaster: the expression of bodily experience in Aceh, Indonesia

Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute published Annemarie Samuels' article on the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean. It's a detailed ethnographic account of the experiences of three Indonesian survivors.

Annemarie Samuels
27 September 2016
Read the full article at Wiley Online Library


The devastating Indian Ocean tsunami of 26 December 2004 caused massive destruction to coastal Aceh, Indonesia, and left countless numbers of people dead or wounded. This article focuses on the embodied narratives of three Acehnese women who survived the disaster and, like many others in Aceh, told their stories ‘through’ their bodies.

A detailed ethnographic account of their narratives reveals how the body stretches temporally between the ‘narrated event’ and the ‘narrative event’, both through the representation of the body in narratives and through the embodied performance of narratives.

Moving beyond meaning-centred analyses of narratives, I argue that the central accomplishment of these narratives is that they convey poignant bodily experiences to others and thereby create a shared, post-disaster, world. Ultimately, through these embodied narratives of disaster people remake their world, with others, in the wake of its ‘unmaking’.

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