ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
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'Build Back Better' and the Creation of a 'Psychic Economy of Want' in Post-Tsunami Sri Lanka

This paper suggests that post-disaster assistance in the Global South is a version of "slum development" on a compressed scale in terms of time and an expanded one in terms of resources. The index of this is the slogan "build back better." It implies that communities affected by a disaster are a priori a dilapidated lot, and disasters like the 2004 tsunami are a great cleansing. It allows aid agencies that arrive bearing gifts like Santa Claus an opportunity to transform a blighted existence into a civilised one. Each of them arrives not only with a heraldic logo but also with their own plans to build back better. The result is a plethora of architectural styles and ownership patterns leading to a realigning of relations among victims, and between victims and non-victims. This realigning, in a climate of sudden and large influx of money and material goods, rather than assuaging their loss and grief, creates a chimera of plenitude that ironically leads to an elusive but persistent and widespread sense of discontent across different segments of society.

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