What is a disaster? And crucially, when is a disaster?
Let's start by watching Spike Lee's feature on Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath in the city of New Orleans (Part 1, Part 2). What critical failures (institutional, political, techno-scientific etc.) contribute to making this a disaster? How could it's impacts have been lessened? What parallels do you see between Hurricane Katrina and the COVID-19 crisis -- both "natural" disasters, although of very different kinds -- that is currently unfolding around you?
Remember, also, our discussion about how disasters often become grounds for dramatic social interventions, which would be unthinkable in our everyday lives otherwise. Naomi Klein makes a strong case for this in her book, The Shock Doctrine (introductory excerpt here), and also again in this recent clip on Corona Capitalism.
What contributions can critical social science make to understanding and responding to disasters? Read this agenda for a Disaster-STS, for example, articulated in the aftermath of the Fukushima meltdown. What questions do we need to add to this list in the face of COVID-19? Read also Sheila Jasanoff's recent interview, which touches upon a number of issues that we will return to again, making the case for integration of STS-knowledges into disaster management.
Preparatory work for the meeting: Annotate this text artifact using the "Understanding Disaster" structured analytic.
This text describes the tasks for the seminar on Disaster.
Anonymous, "Seminar 1: Disaster", contributed by Aalok Khandekar, STS Infrastructures, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 8 April 2020, accessed 26 January 2022.