Communities and responsibility: narratives of place-identity in Australian bushfire landscapes
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Karen Reid; Ruth Beilin; Jim McLennan
Publication Year: 2020

Cataloging Information

  • Australia
  • bushfire
  • landscape
  • place identity
  • preparedness
  • shared responsibility
  • social memory
  • wildland fire
  • International
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: January 21, 2020
FRAMES Record Number: 60596


This research explores the complex interplay among (a) landscape and social memory, (b) the construction of place-identity, and (c) notions of responsibility sharing in hazard preparedness and response. Our aims are to (a) establish greater clarity about the gap between social responses to technologically driven risk management strategies favoured by governments and agencies within the context of Australian bushfire management policies and practices, and (b) provide insight into the practical implications of policies espousing greater community involvement in readiness for bushfire, and shared responsibility between communities and governments. Case study based ethnographic research involves communities in rural, peri-urban and remote Australia. We find that maintaining a sense of place-identity in the face of economic rationalist government-at-a-distance may be of greater urgency to communities than planning for possible bushfire threat. Community imperatives to retain control over local social and landscape memory and narratives may result in push-back against well-intentioned outsider agency interventions aimed at promoting greater community awareness and preparedness. Within the entanglement of landscape, remembering and everyday social practices - the taskscape - there is fluidity between individual place-identity and the ways social memory is (re)constructed to make sense of emergent events and support imagined community futures. We conclude that a consequence for land and fire management agencies is to recognise the importance of framing community engagement around the ways each community functions within and as part of its landscape, rather than a singular focus on potential bushfire impacts.

Online Link(s):
Reid, Karen; Beilin, Ruth; McLennan, Jim. 2020. Communities and responsibility: narratives of place-identity in Australian bushfire landscapes. Geoforum 109:35-43.