Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for Cultural Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Students
Primary Theme: The Political
Secondary Theme: Inequality
Ethnography in/of Disastrous Times
Disasters are often characterized as sudden events causing great damage or disruption. Yet much ethnographic research has shown that disasters are perhaps better understood as processes, without easily demarcated beginnings and ends. Disasters, thus, come in a variety of temporal articulations: sudden and latent, slow and fast, anticipated, imminent, and chronic. Indeed, as phenomena of cross-cutting dimensions and scale, disasters elicit new forms of politics, governance, and modes of living; concomitantly, disasters also offer challenges and opportunities for new modes of ethnographic sensibilities and practices. To attend to disasters as objects of ethnographic investigation and as forces that shape ethnographic research, this panel focuses on how disasters are imagined, managed, governed, and experienced in timescapes. How do history and futurity shape the contours and ontologies of disasters? What tempos of violence emerge by taking seriously the chronopolitics of disasters? And what new social relations are created when a particular group of people are identified as an at-risk community and their environment becomes subject to science and policy experiments? With research spanning across various sites and “disasters”—from the Sewol Ferry Disaster in South Korea, to climate change in Bangladesh, anti-malarial drug resistance in Cambodia, disaster nationalism in Sri Lanka to industrial casualties in the United States— this panel explores how spatiotemporal framings work as techniques of governance and management, while shaping social memory, quotidian life, and institutional responses.