Jacob A.C. Remes and Andy HorowitzMar 29, 2023
Critical Disaster Studies
University of Pennsylvania Press 2021
This book announces the new, interdisciplinary field of critical disaster studies. Unlike most existing approaches to disaster, critical disaster studies begins with the idea that disasters are not objective facts, but rather are interpretive fictions--and they shape the way people see the world. By questioning the concept of disaster itself, critical disaster studies reveals the stakes of defining people or places as vulnerable, resilient, or at risk.
As social constructs, disaster, vulnerability, resilience, and risk shape and are shaped by contests over power. Managers and technocrats often herald the goals of disaster response and recovery as objective, quantifiable, or self-evident. In reality, the goals are subjective, and usually contested. Critical disaster studies attends to the ways powerful people often use claims of technocratic expertise to maintain power. Moreover, rather than existing as isolated events, disasters take place over time. People commonly imagine disasters to be unexpected and sudden, making structural conditions appear contingent, widespread conditions appear local, and chronic conditions appear acute. By placing disasters in broader contexts, critical disaster studies peels away that veneer.
With chapters by scholars of five continents and seven disciplines, Critical Disaster Studies (U Pennsylvania Press, 2021) asks how disasters come to be known as disasters, how disasters are used as tools of governance and politics, and how people imagine and anticipate disasters. The volume will be of interest to scholars of disaster in any discipline and especially to those teaching the growing number of courses on disaster studies.
Contributors include: Dr. Scott Gabriel Knowle and Dr. Zachary Loeb, Dr. Ryan Hagen, Dr. Dara Z. Strolovitch, Dr. Claire Antone Payton, Dr. Aaron Clark-Ginsberg, Dr. Pranathi Diwackar, Dr. Rebecca Elliott, Dr. Susan Scott Parrish, Dr. Kerry Smith, Dr. Chika Watanabe, and Dr. Kenneth Hewitt.
Dr. Jacob Remes is clinical associate professor in the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at NYU. Trained as a labor and working-class historian of North America, he is the author of Disaster Citizenship: Survivors, Solidarity, and Power in the Progressive Era (University of Illinois Press, 2016) and the editor, with Andy Horowitz, of Critical Disaster Studies (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2021). He is a founding member of the editorial collective of the new Journal of Disaster Studies and a series co-editor of the University of Pennsylvania Press book series Critical Studies in Risk and Disaster.
Dr. Andy Horowitz is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Connecticut, and he also serves as the Connecticut State Historian. A historian of the modern United States, his research has focused on disasters and the questions they give rise to about race, class, community, trauma, the welfare state, extractive industry, metropolitan development, and environmental change. He is the author of Katrina: A History, 1915–2015 (Harvard University Press, 2020), which won the Bancroft Prize in American History.
Anna Levy researches and teaches on emergency, crisis, and development practice & politics at Fordham & New York Universities. She is the founder and principal of Jafsadi.works, a research collective focused on advancing structural and participatory accountability in non-profit, movement, multilateral, city, and policy strategies. You can follow her @politicoyuntura.