A practicing psychoanalyst and clinical psychologist, the author offers a psychoanalytical perspective on psychic illness within a contrastive framework of twentieth-century Western psychiatric and psycho- analytic outlooks on mental health. Drawing on Jaspers's exemplary discussion of the differences between psychiatric and phenomenological-interpretative approaches to psychopathology, the author applies it to her exegesis of the Lacanian conceptions of the human unconscious, the dynamics of symptom formation, as well as the significance of mental malady for understanding the structure of the human subject. As different forms of psychopathology express themselves in social phenomena, the author advocates a wider application of psychoanalytic ethnography or applied psychoanalysis to help subjects deal with natural disasters, personal crises, and everyday life. Taking into account the adversities that affect individuals and societies and the diversity of contexts, the dynamic process of applied psychoanalysis can make contributions toward achieving vital understanding.
Renata Volich Eisenbruch
From National Catastrophes to Ecological Disasters
Netta Bar Yosef-Paz
This article examines contemporary Hebrew dystopic novels in which ecological issues play a critical role, reflecting an increasing preoccupation of Israeli culture and society with the environment. The literary turn to dystopia is not new, but whereas Israeli dystopias published in the 1980s–1990s focused mainly on military apocalyptic visions, current novels combine these national anxieties with ecological dangers, following present-day trends in American literature and cinema. These contemporary dystopias either conjoin a national crises with an ecological disaster as the source of the catastrophe or represent environmental recklessness as evidence of moral corruption, linking ecological and social injustice to the emergence of a Jewish theocracy. Offering an ecocritical reading of these novels, the article pinpoints the American cultural influence on the narratives. This thematic shift in Hebrew fiction, I argue, reflects a rising environmental awareness and positions literature as a major arena in which these issues are raised.
Trauma, History, and the Great Storm of 1900
This article considers the lurid accounts of looting and lynching that circulated after the 1900 Galveston, Texas, hurricane, the deadliest storm in United States history. Previous accounts of the flood have tended to ignore or subsume these stories in narratives of heroic recovery and progress. But Galvestonians' fantasies of racial violence suggest that the specific catastrophe of the flood was part of the ongoing disaster of racial terror in Texas at the turn of the twentieth century. Understanding disaster as a chronic human process rather than an acute wound from nature reveals that, instead of allowing white Galvestonians to transcend their history of violence against African Americans, the storm seemed to authorize them to further enact and reenact the imposition of suffering.
Erin R. Eldridge
Coal ash, the waste generated at coal-burning power plants, is one of the largest waste streams in the United States, and it contains a range of contaminants, including arsenic and mercury. Disasters at coal ash waste sites in recent years have led to increased public scrutiny of coal ash in communities and have sparked policy debates, lawsuits, and complaints throughout the country. With emphasis on federal and state coal ash policies since the 1970s, this article highlights the synthesis of government and corporate power in coal ash politics, and the bureaucratic processes affecting communities near coal ash sites. Based on ethnographic research following the 2008 Tennessee Valley Authority coal ash disaster, as well as preliminary research on the “social life” of coal ash in North Carolina, this article specifically offers ethnographic insight into the lived experiences of social and ecological violence created, perpetuated, and normalized through bureaucratic processes.
In Far North Queensland, a region in the northeast of Australia, cyclones are an annual risk. As a result of this frequency of cyclonic activity, different forms of cyclone knowledge exist ranging from disaster management information to local conceptualizations. For the people that inhabit this region, cyclones are a lived reality that are known in different, seemingly contradictory ways. Drawing on fifteen months of ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Far North Queensland from 2012 to 2015, this article explores how local cyclone knowledge is assembled from a variety of heterogeneous factors that change and fluctuate through time, and are subject to an ongoing process of evaluation.
This article assesses the cornucopian theory of the mastery of plastic nature. Serious deficiencies are found, especially the theory's complacent faith in economic rationality and its underestimation of nature's capacity for unexpected emergent disturbances. Conclusions about the real state of the world and realistic expectations for the future must take into account not only present trends, but also the findings of research into disasters and societies that have collapsed. Learning from the analysis of such discontinuities and breaking points will help to avoid simplistic presumptions of safety based on extrapolating time-series trends of present well-being in wealthy societies into the distant future. It is precisely disaster research and studies of collapsed societies that can teach us about failures of foresight concerning nature's dynamics, about the material consequences of such errors, about the uncertainties involved in foreseeing nature's emergent dynamics, and about social barriers to learning from the prompts of nature. Although apologetics for business-as-usual, full-steam-ahead practices that masquerade as realism should be rejected, a deeper realism that has learned to expect the unexpected from nature is necessary. Such a critical realist perspective for investigating prompts from nature has been elaborated in this article.
Understanding Mobilities in a Dangerous World
Gail Adams-Hutcheson, Holly Thorpe and Catharine Coleborne
The mobilities framework offers a particularly informative and potent paradigm through which to draw together interdisciplinary scholarship about the present world. In this introduction—and indeed, derived from a symposia on mobilities in a dangerous world—we explore the dynamics of contemporary mobilities through a critical focus on “dangerous” spaces and places. We discuss the potential of a sustained dialogue between mobilities studies and our focus on risk, adversity, and perceptions of danger. Although disasters link to four of the articles, ideas are expanded to draw on the multiple scales of risk and danger in everyday life within and across an array of international contexts. In this special issue, dynamic mobilities are facilitated by ships, skateboards, buildings, art, and cities; they are also encountered in darkness, in light, and through bodies as well as physical and imagined movements.
This article advocates the value of a mobilities approach to examining the lived experiences of youth in contexts of war, conflict, and disaster. With the aim of moving beyond “victim” narratives, it critically examines three cases of youth engagement in alternative sporting forms in post-earthquakes Christchurch and conflict-torn Afghanistan and Gaza. These are contexts in which youth physical mobilities are highly constrained, yet in each of these cases we also see youth creatively developing an array of strategies and initiatives to help improve their own and others’ health and well-being, for social and physical pleasure, and in some cases to challenge power relations. The three brief cases highlight the multiple and complex layers of transnational mobilities, with the flows of people, objects, and ideas across borders, being negotiated and (re)appropriated by youth in locally specific ways.
Living Species and the Latency of Biological and Environmental Threats
Discourses and practices of anticipation occupy a hypertrophic space in contexts where uncontrolled industrial growth has inflicted grave damage on peoples and territories, even triggering environmental disasters. This article explores the use of nonhuman species as anticipatory devices in a petrochemical terminal in Sicily, focusing on public representations of three species: scavenger bacteria that play a cleansing role and underline citizens’ moral responsibility to secure their best possible futures through bioscience; migrating flamingos that breed under the petrochemical chimneys, raising the possibility of hopefulness by highlighting ecosystem resilience; and fish affected by spina bifida, which reveal human health status in advance, communicating the need to live in preparation for potential diseases. The analysis reveals the highly contentious character of these anticipatory devices and the contested ideas about possible futures they imply, thus shedding light on the ecological frictions that have repercussions locally and globally, in discourse and social practice.
The concept of “social construction“ associated with risks has proved to be an increasingly useful analytical tool among disaster experts. However, as is natural with the creation and evolution of theoretical concepts to explain reality, it has acquired different meanings. This, in some cases, has generated some confusion in its use. This paper attempts to clarify some of the variations of the concept “social construction of risk“ by studying and reviewing its main usages and contents. In particular, it looks at the concept's association with perception and with vulnerability. It is basically a theoretical essay intended to help scholars who study disasters so they can use more fluently one of the concepts that will allow them to better comprehend the object of their studies.
Spanish El concepto de “construcción social“ asociado con los riesgos ha demostrado una utilidad analítica cada vez mayor entre los estudiosos de los desastres. Sin embargo, como es natural que ocurra en la generación y evolución de planteamientos teóricos para la interpretación de la realidad, se le han atribuido significados diversos. Lo anterior ha contribuido en algunos casos a confusiones en su utilización. Este ensayo pretende contribuir a esclarecer algunas de las variaciones en el uso del concepto “construcción social del riesgo“ por medio del estudio y revisión de los principales manejos y contenidos que se le han dado, particularmente dos de ellos: el que lo asocia con la percepción y el que lo hace con la vulnerabilidad. Se trata de un ensayo básicamente de corte teórico, cuyo objetivo último es aportar elementos para que los estudiosos de los desastres puedan disponer con mayor fluidez de uno de los conceptos que permitan comprender el objeto de su estudio con más destreza.
French Le concept de « construction sociale » associé aux risques a démontré une utilité grandissante en tant qu'outil d'analyse pour les spécialistes qui étudient les catastrophes. Toutefois, comme c'est le cas de tout processus naturel de création et de développement des approches théoriques qui servent à l'interprétation de la réalité, des significations diverses ont été données à ce concept. Ce e diversité a contribué dans certains cas à créer des confusions dans son utilisation. Le présent article éclaircit des variations du concept de construction sociale du risque par l'étude et la révision des principaux usages et contenus qui lui ont été donnés, dont deux en particulier : celui qui l'associe à la perception, et celui qui l'associe à la vulnérabilité. Cet essai a comme objectif d'offrir une réflexion de nature théorique sur l'utilisation d'un des concepts fréquemment utilisés par ceux qui s'adonnent à l'étude des catastrophes.