Recalling Chernobyl: Reflections Among Swedish Farmers

August 2006 (VOL. 24, NO. 2)

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Interpretations of past disaster experiences are likely to influence reactions to future threat situations. This study examines recollections and interpretations of a diffuse threat situation among farmers in areas of Sweden affected to differing degrees by radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl accident in 1986. 20 farmers were interviewed and the data were analyzed using a grounded theory approach. The analysis resulted in a model in which personal reflections emerged as a filtering link between recollections of the past event and anticipations about the future. Differences in recollections, reflections and anticipated behaviors could be related to differing experiences among the farmers. The main category of reflections exemplified ways in which memories from Chernobyl were reassessed and evaluated in a sensemaking process. On the basis of these reflections, two differing patterns of anticipated future behavior could be identified: the first being passive and reactive in response to the actions of authorities; the second active and relying mainly on personal judgments and decisions.