The goal of this collection is to expand and rethink the connections between disasters and the political. Taking an innovative approach that encompasses empirical and theoretical studies, leading experts in the field explore how disasters configure the political in new ways, providing a lens for understanding what the political is and the pragmatics of politics. As events of radical disruption, disasters also enable the redefinition of the political itself, and associated notions such as controversy, crisis, and risk.
The political nature of disasters is addressed from three different angles: how materials and non–human entities are engaged in disastrous politics, how disasters are measured, projected and anticipated, and how situations of radical disorganization are ordered and governed.
Comparative, international case studies from the United Kingdom and the United States, along with Australia, Europe, and South America, combine science and technology studies, disaster studies, and political theory to provide an integrated account of the link between disasters and the political for researchers and academics. Together, they stimulate a more robust conversation between disciplines to feed into broader sociological debates.
Introduction: disasters as politics politics as disasters (Michael Guggenheim)
Section 1: Materials: Ontologies
1. Geo–politics and the disaster of the Anthropocene (Nigel Clark)
2. Disasters as meshworks: Migratory birds and the enlivening of Doñana s toxic spill (Israel Rodríguez–Giralt, Francisco Tirado and Manuel Tironi)
3. Misrecognizing tsunamis: ontological politics and cosmopolitical challenges in early warning systems (Ignacio Farías)
Section 2: Experiments: Governance
4. Producing space, tracing authority: mapping the 2007 San Diego wildfires (Katrina Petersen)
5. Atmospheres of indagation: disasters and the politics of excessiveness (Manuel Tironi)
6. Technologies of recovery: plans, practices and entangled politics in disaster (Lucy Easthope and Maggie Mort)
Section 3: Preparedness: Anticipation
7. Creating a secure network: the 2001 anthrax attacks and the transformation of postal security (Ryan Ellis)
8. Concrete governmentality: shelters and the transformations of preparedness (Joe Deville, Michael Guggenheim and Zuzana Hrdlièková)
9. Anticipating oil: the temporal politics of a disaster yet to come (Gisa Weszkalnys)
10. Afterword: on the topologies and temporalities of disaster (Mike Michael)
Notes on contributors
Michael Guggenheim is a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London, researching how disaster experts conceive of the population. He has also worked with Bernd Kräftner and Judith Kröll of shared inc. on a qualitative laboratory for disaster and emergency provision forecasting, and an exhibition on science and the public. His previous research has focused on the change of use of buildings and how materiality and use interrelate and he studied environmental experts for his PhD. He is the author of Organisierte Umwelt. Umweltdienstleistungsfirmen Zwischen Wissenschaft, Wirtschaft Und Politik (2005) and co–editor of Re–Shaping Cities: How Global Mobility Transforms Architecture and Urban Form (2010).
Israel Rodríguez–Giralt is Lecturer in Social Psychology at the Open University of Catalonia, Barcelona. His research aims to connect the study of social movements with science and technology studies. For his PhD he studied the role that social movements played in politicizing Doñana′s Disaster, one of the most serious environmental controversies in the recent history of Spain. His current research focuses on the processes and practices mediating political participation and mobilization in public controversies around social care policies.
Manuel Tironi is Assistant Professor at the Instituto de Sociología, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. His research focuses on public engagement, disasters, envirotech controversies and large technical systems. He is currently investigating the performative nature of participatory devices in catastrophic settings and the configuration of the GMO controversy in Chile. He is the author, with Fernando Pérez, of SCL: Prácticas, Espacios y Cultura Urbana (2009).