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Unlocking Meaning of Embodied Memories from Bushfire Survivors

Journal Article


Abstract


  • In Australia, a country ravaged by bushfire, stories of widespread destruction are shared every summer. The 2019–2020 bushfire season in Australia, for example, received global news coverage with heartbreaking stories of lives lost, heroic firefighters killed on duty, over a thousand homes and businesses destroyed, and millions of native animals and their habitats wiped out. In this paper we present a case study of one of Australia’s past catastrophic bushfire events, the Canberra Firestorm of 2003, in which four people lost their lives, nearly 500 families lost their homes, and Australian infrastructure and historic sites, like the Mount Stromlo observatory, were damaged or destroyed. This paper examines how the bushfire survivors drew upon embodied memories and sensory metaphors to make sense of and narrate their experiences, providing vivid imagery that reflected the multiple sensory inputs people saw, felt, heard, and smelled during the firestorm. We argue that oral history is an essential methodology to explore how sensemaking theory can be used in studies of traumatic experiences.

Publication Date


  • 2021

Citation


  • Slowikowski, S., & Motion, J. (2021). Unlocking Meaning of Embodied Memories from Bushfire Survivors. Oral History Review, 48(1), 83-99. doi:10.1080/00940798.2020.1866954

Scopus Eid


  • 2-s2.0-85121656753

Start Page


  • 83

End Page


  • 99

Volume


  • 48

Issue


  • 1

Abstract


  • In Australia, a country ravaged by bushfire, stories of widespread destruction are shared every summer. The 2019–2020 bushfire season in Australia, for example, received global news coverage with heartbreaking stories of lives lost, heroic firefighters killed on duty, over a thousand homes and businesses destroyed, and millions of native animals and their habitats wiped out. In this paper we present a case study of one of Australia’s past catastrophic bushfire events, the Canberra Firestorm of 2003, in which four people lost their lives, nearly 500 families lost their homes, and Australian infrastructure and historic sites, like the Mount Stromlo observatory, were damaged or destroyed. This paper examines how the bushfire survivors drew upon embodied memories and sensory metaphors to make sense of and narrate their experiences, providing vivid imagery that reflected the multiple sensory inputs people saw, felt, heard, and smelled during the firestorm. We argue that oral history is an essential methodology to explore how sensemaking theory can be used in studies of traumatic experiences.

Publication Date


  • 2021

Citation


  • Slowikowski, S., & Motion, J. (2021). Unlocking Meaning of Embodied Memories from Bushfire Survivors. Oral History Review, 48(1), 83-99. doi:10.1080/00940798.2020.1866954

Scopus Eid


  • 2-s2.0-85121656753

Start Page


  • 83

End Page


  • 99

Volume


  • 48

Issue


  • 1