Building from Scratch: The aesthetics of post-disaster reconstruction(Respond to this article at


  • Maj Nygaard-Christensen

    1. Postdoctoral researcher at Aarhus University in Denmark. She has carried out 18 months of fieldwork in Timor-Leste and does research on the political landscapes of international interventions, with a focus on political practices among international democracy promoters in Timor-Leste. Her email is
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This article looks at the visual character of post-conflict and post-disaster settings, and shows how states of physical ruin can help to produce an ‘aesthetics of post-disaster reconstruction’. With examples primarily drawn from the author's field site in Timor-Leste, the article shows how ruins, ashes and demolition may be perceived as enabling particular kinds of agency and opportunity. Thus, some of the most hopeful of international-intervention dreams of recent decades have been produced out of sites of mass-scale destruction.