Critical Disaster Studies

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Call for Papers: Critical Disaster Studies. New York University, Gallatin School for Individualized Study September 21-22, 2018

Abstracts due January 8, 2018
Notification by March 1, 2018
Full papers due July 15, 2018

Disasters loom large in the human imagination. From the Biblical story of Noah’s flood to science fiction fantasies of nuclear war, every generation, it seems, envisions its own spectacular destruction. Today, in the context of climate change, urbanization, and global conflict, anxieties about environmental devastation, financial crisis, and terrorism join enduring fears of earthquakes, hurricanes, droughts, and disease. Modern technologies at once offer the promise of protection from existing risks, while creating new hazards; modern media at once helps to shape a public more informed, and more afraid, of their own vulnerabilities. No wonder, then, that increasing numbers of scholars are drawn to disasters, leading to the emergence of what we are calling critical disaster studies.

The developing field of critical disaster studies builds on previous generations of scholarship about disaster—characterized primarily by rich descriptive accounts of specific incidents, comparative sociological studies, and applied policy research on preparedness and emergency management—and adds greater theoretical engagement, interdisciplinary approaches, and critical interrogation of the concept of disaster itself, as well as the related concepts of risk, vulnerability, security, and resilience. Geographers, historians, anthropologists, and sociologists who study disaster increasingly engage with the interdisciplinary fields of science and technology studies, environmental studies, and urban studies. Significant themes in the field include the human foundations of “natural” disaster, climate disaster and the anthropocene idea, “slow disaster” and other forms of chronic or everyday crisis, anticipatory modes of preparedness for future threats, the politics of humanitarian response, the relationships among disaster, capitalism, settler colonialism, and security regimes, and the mediation of disaster in public culture.

This conference will bring together new and established scholars of disaster and related themes in order to evaluate the state of this emergent field and to chart pathways for future research. We seek contributions from the humanities and interpretive social sciences that examine disaster in social, political, cultural, architectural, environmental, and transnational perspectives.

The conference will consist of a day of public presentations, including a keynote address by Kenneth Hewitt, followed by a workshop day with approximately 10 participants discussing pre-circulated papers. After the conference, the organizers intend to assemble all or most of the papers for an edited volume, and we have begun conversations with editors about publication. Funding is available to support participants’ airfare, lodging, and meals during the conference.

Please submit abstracts of approximately 300 words, along with a CV, to critical.disaster.studies@gmail.com by January 8, 2018.

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