In her groundbreaking Affective Intellectuals and the Space of Catastrophe in the Americas, Judith Sierra-Rivera studies five different contexts of crisis: natural disasters in Mexico, forced displacements between Central America and the United States, a whitewashed transition to democracy in Chile, colonialism and wars in Puerto Rico, and racism and patriarchy in Cuba. All of these scenarios share the common ground of the neoliberal space of catastrophe, which also generates new groups and forms of resistance. Affective Intellectuals argues that a new kind of intellectual emerges from these contemporary configurations to speak and act guided by the stories and desires of those who have been systematically pushed out of the public sphere: indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants, immigrants, LGBTQ sexualities, and inhabitants of poverty.
Pursuing this argument, Sierra-Rivera examines print, radio, and web materials by authors whose emotional discourses have also had a measurable impact on the formation of communities that demand their full political inclusion in society. This book therefore fills a significant gap in the study of the relationship between materiality (space and bodies), emotions, and the political imagination. Affective Intellectuals demonstrates that writers and intellectuals themselves are vital in reshaping their communities and fighting for social justice in the Hemispheric Americas.
How should we understand the relation of the Holocaust to the broader historical processes of the century just ended? How do we explain the bearing of the Holocaust on problems of representation, memory, memorialization, and historical practice? These are some of the questions explored by an esteemed group of scholars in Catastrophe and Meaning, the most significant multiauthored book on the Holocaust in over a decade.
This collection features essays that consider the role of anti-Semitism in the recounting of the Holocaust; the place of the catastrophe in the narrative of twentieth-century history; the questions of agency and victimhood that the Holocaust inspires; the afterlife of trauma in literature written about the tragedy; and the gaps in remembrance and comprehension that normal historical works fail to notice.
Omer Bartov, Dan Diner, Debòrah Dwork, Saul Friedländer, Geoffrey Hartman, Dominick LaCapra, Paul Mendes-Flohr, Anson Rabinbach, Frank Trommler, Shulamit Volkov, Froma Zeitlin
When houses are flattened, towns submerged, and people stranded without electricity or even food, we attribute the suffering to “natural disasters” or “acts of God.” But what if they’re neither? What if we, as a society, are bringing these catastrophes on ourselves?
That’s the provocative theory of Catastrophe in the Making, the first book to recognize Hurricane Katrina not as a “perfect storm,” but a tragedy of our own making—and one that could become commonplace.
The authors, one a longtime New Orleans resident, argue that breached levees and sloppy emergency response are just the most obvious examples of government failure. The true problem is more deeply rooted and insidious, and stretches far beyond the Gulf Coast.
Based on the false promise of widespread prosperity, communities across the U.S. have embraced all brands of “economic development” at all costs. In Louisiana, that meant development interests turning wetlands into shipping lanes. By replacing a natural buffer against storm surges with a 75-mile long, obsolete canal that cost hundreds of millions of dollars, they guided the hurricane into the heart of New Orleans and adjacent communities. The authors reveal why, despite their geographic differences, California and Missouri are building—quite literally—toward similar destruction.
Too often, the U.S. “growth machine” generates wealth for a few and misery for many. Drawing lessons from the most expensive “natural” disaster in American history, Catastrophe in the Making shows why thoughtless development comes at a price we can ill afford.
Western thought has often dismissed shadows as fictional, but what if fictions reveal original truths? Drawing on an anti-Platonic tradition in critical theory, Lawtoo adopts ethical, anthropological, and philosophical lenses to offer new readings of Joseph Conrad’s novels and the postcolonial and cinematic works that respond to his oeuvre. He argues that Conrad’s fascination with doubles urges readers to reflect on the two sides of mimesis: one side is dark and pathological, and involves the escalation of violence, contagious epidemics, and catastrophic storms; the other side is luminous and therapeutic, and promotes communal survival, postcolonial reconciliation, and plastic adaptations to changing environments. Once joined, the two sides reveal Conrad as an author whose Janus-faced fictions are powerfully relevant to our contemporary world of global violence and environmental crisis.
"I read Peter Y. Paik’s lucid, graceful, ruthless book in one single astonished sitting. I scarred it all over with arrows and exclamation points, so I can read it again as soon as possible." —Bruce Sterling
Revolutionary narratives in recent science fiction graphic novels and films compel audiences to reflect on the politics and societal ills of the day. Through character and story, science fiction brings theory to life, giving shape to the motivations behind the action as well as to the consequences they produce.
In From Utopia to Apocalypse, Peter Y. Paik shows how science fiction generates intriguing and profound insights into politics. He reveals that the fantasy of putting annihilating omnipotence to beneficial effect underlies the revolutionary projects that have defined the collective upheavals of the modern age. Paik traces how this political theology is expressed, and indeed literalized, in popular superhero fiction, examining works including Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s graphic novel Watchmen, the science fiction cinema of Jang Joon-Hwan, the manga of Hayao Miyazaki, Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta, and the Matrix trilogy. Superhero fantasies are usually seen as compensations for individual feelings of weakness, victimization, and vulnerability. But Paik presents these fantasies as social constructions concerned with questions of political will and the disintegration of democracy rather than with the psychology of the personal.
What is urgently at stake, Paik argues, is a critique of the limitations and deadlocks of the political imagination. The utopias dreamed of by totalitarianism, which must be imposed through torture, oppression, and mass imprisonment, nevertheless persist in liberal political systems. With this reality looming throughout, Paik demonstrates the uneasy juxtaposition of saintliness and cynically manipulative realpolitik, of torture and the assertion of human dignity, of cruelty and benevolence.
The injuries suffered by soldiers during WWI were as varied as they were brutal. How could the human body suffer and often absorb such disparate traumas? Why might the same wound lead one soldier to die but allow another to recover?
In The Human Body in the Age of Catastrophe, Stefanos Geroulanos and Todd Meyers uncover a fascinating story of how medical scientists came to conceptualize the body as an integrated yet brittle whole. Responding to the harrowing experience of the Great War, the medical community sought conceptual frameworks to understand bodily shock, brain injury, and the vast differences in patient responses they occasioned. Geroulanos and Meyers carefully trace how this emerging constellation of ideas became essential for thinking about integration, individuality, fragility, and collapse far beyond medicine: in fields as diverse as anthropology, political economy, psychoanalysis, and cybernetics.
Moving effortlessly between the history of medicine and intellectual history, The Human Body in the Age of Catastrophe is an intriguing look into the conceptual underpinnings of the world the Great War ushered in.
Bloody, fiery spectacles—the Challenger disaster, 9/11, JFK’s assassination—have given us moments of catastrophe that make it easy to answer the “where were you when” question and shape our ways of seeing what came before and after. Why are these spectacles so packed with meaning?
In The Iconoclastic Imagination, Ned O’Gorman approaches each of these moments as an image of icon-destruction that give us distinct ways to imagine social existence in American life. He argues that the Cold War gave rise to crises in political, aesthetic, and political-aesthetic representations. Locating all of these crises within a “neoliberal imaginary,” O’Gorman explains that since the Kennedy assassination, the most powerful way to see “America” has been in the destruction of representative American symbols or icons. This, in turn, has profound implications for a neoliberal economy, social philosophy, and public policy. Richly interwoven with philosophical, theological, and rhetorical traditions, the book offers a new foundation for a complex and innovative approach to studying Cold War America, political theory, and visual culture.
As it erupted in 1980, Mount St. Helens captured the attention of the region, nation, and the world, and it continues to fascinate us today� a constant reminder that we live in a volcanic landscape. In lucid prose and poetry by some of America�s leading writers and ecologists, In the Blast Zone explores this story of destruction and renewal in all its human, geological, and ecological dimensions. Most popular accounts of the momentous eruption have focused on the devastation it caused. More recent scientific work on Mount St. Helens tells a story of unexpectedly rapid and varied ecological and geological change. In the Blast Zone is the first book to present a cross-pollination of literary and scientific perspectives on the mountain�s history of cataclysm and renewal. Most of the contributors to this volume camped together on Mount St. Helens for four days in 2005�the 25th anniversary of the eruption� hiking, learning the ecology, and sharing ideas. They asked the question: What can this radically altered landscape tell us about nature and how to live our lives? In the Blast Zone collects some of their answers. While introducing fascinating ecological and geological insights, it also tells compelling stories about how science informs our lives and our relationship to nature. These writings will startle readers with new recognition of the matchless gift Mount St. Helens makes to our region and the world: the gifts of beauty, of scientific illumination, of hope.
In a timely book with a powerful and persuasive message, Dr. Harold G. Koenig addresses federal, state, and local government policy leaders, urging them to more fully integrate religious organizations into the formal disaster response system, and he then provides recommendations on how this can effectively be done. Koenig also advocates faith communities and organizations to learn more about the role they can play in responding to disasters and terrorism.
The chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina made extraordinarily clear the gaps in the United States' disaster policies. At the same time, the contributions of organized faith communities were highlights amidst the bungled federal, state, and local responses. One example is the New York Times, September 9, 2005, headline: "A New Meaning for 'Organized Religion': It Helps the Needy Quickly." But as faith-based organizations look for ways to help, there are few, if any, guidelines for them.
This book provides information on the psychological, social, and spiritual responses to trauma. It addresses how the emergency response system works, and the role that religious communities can play in disaster response and recovery in terms of providing emotional and spiritual care for victims. It advocates integrating mental health into emergency response systems directed at those affected by hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and terrorism. "The aim is to help victims of disaster to better cope with the stresses they face, as well as help direct care workers (firefighters, police, health care providers, etc.) to deal better emotionally with the trauma to which they are exposed so they can remain effective and functional on the job," explains
Dr. Koenig, whose research on the healing power of faith has been published worldwide.
Increasing the resiliency of our communities in the face of disaster is crucial. Religious communities have tremendous potential to contribute to this. Here are guidelines on how to do that more effectively, alongside data on how to facilitate the integration of these contributions with the formal disaster-response system.
Most contemporary interpretations of the biblical book of Lamentations focus on the figure of the "suffering man" as a role model for submission in the face of God's punishment for sin. Yet such a model offers small consolation to survivors of the Holocaust or other mass atrocities and also ignores chapters 1 and 2 of Lamentations, in which the personification of Zion laments her sufferings and demands a response on behalf of her dying children.
In Surviving Lamentations, Tod Linafelt offers an alternative reading of Lamentations in light of the "literature of survival" (works written by survivors of catastrophe) as well as literary and philosophical reflections on "the survival of literature." He refocuses attention on the figure of Zion as a manifestation of a basic need to give voice to suffering, and traces the afterlife of Lamentations in Jewish literature, in which text after text attempts to provide the response to Zion's lament that is lacking in Lamentations itself.
Seen through Linafelt's eyes, Lamentations emerges as uncannily relevant to contemporary discourse on survival.
Queen Lili‘uokalani, the last monarch of Hawai‘i, was forced to abdicate and faced the annexation of her homeland. American poet H.D. wrote through the London blitz and during the years of less regular bombing. Italian novelist and art critic Anna Banti lost the manuscript of her novel about Artemisia Gentileschi but survived the war devastation to Florence to rewrite it. German-Jewish novelist Grete Weil fled to Holland, but her husband was arrested there and murdered by the Nazis. Chilean novelist Isabel Allende fled her country after her uncle Salvador Allende was assassinated and she later lost her daughter to disease.
In The Text Is Myself, Miriam Fuchs analyzes the impact of catastrophe on the lives and writings of these five women. She shows that, however much the past may be shaped into a discernible storyline, it is the uncertain present that preoccupies these writers. Using a feminist and comparative approach to the texts, Fuchs links the women in creative and insightful ways and displays their many profound connections, despite the differences in their cultural and geographic backgrounds.
Fuchs argues convincingly for a new genre within life writing—the narrative of catastrophe, defined by the writing process that occurs during catastrophic events. Two narratives are being told, and two levels of representation, literal and figurative, are present.
Environmental disasters. Terrorist wars. Energy scarcity. Economic failure. Is this the world's inevitable fate, a downward spiral that ultimately spells the collapse of societies? Perhaps, says acclaimed author Thomas Homer-Dixon - or perhaps these crises can actually lead to renewal for ourselves and planet earth.
The Upside of Down takes the reader on a mind-stretching tour of societies' management, or mismanagement, of disasters over time. From the demise of ancient Rome to contemporary climate change, this spellbinding book analyzes what happens when multiple crises compound to cause what the author calls "synchronous failure." But, crisis doesn't have to mean total global calamity. Through catagenesis, or creative, bold reform in the wake of breakdown, it is possible to reinvent our future.
Drawing on the worlds of archeology, poetry, politics, science, and economics, The Upside of Down is certain to provoke controversy and stir imaginations across the globe. The author's wide-ranging expertise makes his insights and proposals particularly acute, as people of all nations try to grapple with how we can survive tomorrow's inevitable shocks to our global system. There is no guarantee of success, but there are ways to begin thinking about a better world, and The Upside of Down is the ideal place to start thinking.
Focusing on W. G. Sebald's four works of prose fiction—The Rings of Saturn, Vertigo, The Emigrants, and Austerlitz—Russell J. A. Kilbourn traces the author's abiding preoccupation with redemption in a world that has been described as postsecular. He shows that Sebald's work stands between modernism's ironic hopes for redemption and whatever comes after. Out of the spectacle of humankind's slow-motion self-destruction, a "Sebaldian subject"—masculine, melancholic, ironic, potentially queer-emerges across the four prose narratives.
Alongside Sebald studies' traditional subjects, which include memory, historiography, Sebald's critique of an image-based culture, and his highly intermedial poetics, W. G. Sebald's Postsecular Redemption demonstrates Sebald's relevance for affect theory, new materialism, and the posthuman turn. It critiques the possibility of metaphysical or eroto-salvific models of redemption, arguing against the temptation of psychoanalytic interpretations, as Sebald's work of memory rejects the discourse of redemption in favor of restitution.
In its consideration of Sebald's place in twentieth-century literature and after, Kilbourn's book engages with such predecessors as Nabokov, Kafka, Conrad, and Beckett, concluding with comparisons with contemporaries Claudio Magris and Alice Munro.
Al Qaeda detonates a nuclear weapon in Times Square during rush hour, wiping out half of Manhattan and killing 500,000 people. A virulent strain of bird flu jumps to humans in Thailand, sweeps across Asia, and claims more than fifty million lives. A single freight car of chlorine derails on the outskirts of Los Angeles, spilling its contents and killing seven million. An asteroid ten kilometers wide slams into the Atlantic Ocean, unleashing a tsunami that renders life on the planet as we know it extinct.
We consider the few who live in fear of such scenarios to be alarmist or even paranoid. But Worst Cases shows that such individuals—like Cassandra foreseeing the fall of Troy—are more reasonable and prescient than you might think. In this book, Lee Clarke surveys the full range of possible catastrophes that animate and dominate the popular imagination, from toxic spills and terrorism to plane crashes and pandemics. Along the way, he explores how the ubiquity of worst cases in everyday life has rendered them ordinary and mundane: very real threats like a killer flu or an American Hiroshima have become so common that they have lost their ability to shock us. Fear and dread, Clarke argues, have actually become too rare: only when the public has more substantial information and more credible warnings will it take worst cases as seriously as it should.
A timely and necessary look into how we think about the unthinkable, Worst Cases will be must reading for anyone attuned to our current climate of threat and fear.