Post-Earthquake Territories and the Unlikely Public


At last, the earthquake stopped, and also the alarm. People who were able to evacuate gathered in the streets and confirmed there were no telephone signals or networks. Some were witnesses to the collapsing structures. Rather quickly, frightened civilians turned into active agents for recovery and rescue. Having been through a similar earthquake exactly 32 years before and under a similar political regime, they knew that the response of the government would be slow and insufficient, so the population improvised multiple ways to provide help, focusing most actively around the fallen structures scattered throughout the city where survivors could still be found under the rubble.[3]

Civilians entered the different disaster areas and created groups to provide food, medical supplies, and above all, working hands for the search and rescue efforts. LaBelle’s concept of “unlikely public” (2018: 14) comes to mind if we think of reorganizations of the public sphere. We can understand such an improvised gathering of people, their civic engagement, and acts of sudden communal work and care as a true reformulation of togetherness, one born out of the consequences of a natural disaster and encouraged by imminent urgency, the urgency of saving lives. The multiple accounts of those helping in these activities reveal transgressions of the usual boundaries, transecting social classes, political positions, origins, and backgrounds, all with the common purpose of finding survivors.