2019 Volume 86 Issue 2 Pages 237-248
Education on the topic of disasters often starts from, or focuses on, passing down disaster memories. To pass down disaster memories, the memories of disaster experiences that are unique to the experiencers must be carefully rendered (translated), so that they can be transmitted in a form that is easily understood by successors who have not experienced the disaster themselves. This essay clarifies the structure of the translation of disaster memories between experiencers and successors, and considers the educational significance of the practical application of such translations.
Section 1 describes the purpose of this essay while Section 2 examines the reasons for the emphasis on memories in disaster education.
Disasters have the power to interrupt and redirect the historical timeline of a community or nation. This gives rise to the need to seamlessly connect the sequence of events preceding a disaster with the events following it, and to reframe the result as the unified and legitimate history of a community or nation. The established dominant history of a community or nation is familiar to the majority of citizens, but it may be alien to minorities and at times may also suppress the realities of their lives. To reflect the complete picture of a disaster, it is important to construct alternative historical narratives using the memories of the affected minority population, in order to create a dialogue with the familiar history of majority populations. Doing so allows for the description of a history that is inclusive of the diverse lives of people who experienced the disaster, in a way that combines many perspectives.
Section 3 focuses on storytelling and listening exchanges in passing down disaster memories and examines the structure and characteristics of such exchanges. Experiences of disasters may often be individual and isolated from others, but if experiencers weave their memories into coherent and consistent narratives in a language shared with successors, these narratives can act as a medium for smooth communication between experiencers and successors, thereby contributing to healing the isolation often experienced by experiencers.
However, the process of weaving narratives also exposes what cannot be expressed in words or translated, that which risks hollowing out the narratives. Successors hear narratives woven in this way and attempt to understand them. However, they may never hear them perfectly, because the translation of disaster memories is often characterized by an extreme ambivalence that simultaneously seeks understanding of memories and rejects that understanding in equal measures.
Nevertheless, if both experiencers and successors are sincere and truthful about the existence of matters that cannot be expressed in words nor directly translated when communicating disaster memories, they can discover the potential for a new self, or community or nation, constructed in a form that differs from that of the here and now.
Introducing these transformations in research topics in education studies may also open up possibilities for transforming education and education studies in forms that differ from the here and now.