To Linger in Post-Earthquake Christchurch: The Responsibility of Waiting


  • Josephine Carter University of Otago



Following natural disasters in urban environments, those who remain are left not only to occupy an unfamiliar space but also to experience a painfully drawn out temporality: the time of waiting. A decade after earthquakes struck Christchurch city, some residents are still inhabiting a time of limbo, awaiting decisions on the fate of their homes and businesses. In this paper, I examine various creative projects that appeared in exposed and vacant sites in post-earthquake Christchurch. These projects turned such sites into dwelling spaces in which passers-by are encouraged to hesitate and linger. Such sites thus encourage people to experience the temporality of waiting, but in a different and I argue more enabling way. This paper examines the ethical possibilities that emerge from lingering before such sites. Drawing on the notion that ethics is not so much a normative procedure and more an impetus that opens up the space of the encounter, I argue that when Cantabrians tarry before such sites, they recognise a world which is not constituted by replaceable objects, but, instead, in their responsiveness, they experience a self that is constituted by its immersion in the world.

Keywords: natural disaster; waiting; temporality; Christchurch earthquakes; ethical responsiveness




How to Cite

Carter, J. (2023). To Linger in Post-Earthquake Christchurch: The Responsibility of Waiting. Sites: A Journal of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies, 19(2), 73–93.