Witnesses, Memories, and Places of after Catastrophe: The Vajont Dam Case | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online


In October 1963, an enormous landslide collapsed into the reservoir of the Vajont Dam, a giant infrastructure recently inaugurated in northern Italy. The resulting waves caused the death of 1910 people and the destruction of the locals’ living environment. The event was labelled an ‘authentic massacre’ caused by human greed in a network of colluded powers that could have prevented it. This human catastrophe constituted a severe break in the historical continuity by profoundly marking the line between a ‘before’ and an ‘after’. We can define this event with the category of ‘cultural trauma’, which deeply marks subjective and collective biographies. The expression of this difficult memory has been at the centre of my ethnographic and historical work conducted among the survivors and their descendants. In this paper, I want to discuss the emotional relationship people developed with the destroyed places, emphasising their practices of remembrance and witness. Indeed, much has changed in recent years in how Vajont’s history is told. New places and new media are the vehicles for counter-hegemonic narratives, which brought previously silent witnesses into the public arena. And yet, the multiple intersections of memories, narratives, and present imaginings of the same place are different and contrasting ways to rethink territories.


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