[URBANTH-L]SANA 2007 in New Orleans reminder

David I Beriss DBeriss at uno.edu
Tue Dec 19 17:00:55 EST 2006

Society for the Anthropology of North America Spring 2007 Conference

Unnatural Disasters

April 19-21, 2007, New Orleans, Louisiana
University of New Orleans Downtown Conference Center

Conference Chair: David Beriss, Chair, Department of Anthropology,
University of New Orleans
Email: SANA2007NOLA at gmail.com
Deadline for paper and session submission: January 15, 2007; visit
www.sananet.org for instructions.
The Society for the Anthropology of North America invites participants
to join a discussion about the unnatural disasters unfolding around
us, in North America and beyond.  This conference, located in a city
and region that has recently experienced one of the most dramatic
unnatural disasters to occur in North America in decades, will provide
an unusual blend of scholarly discussion and opportunities to directly
observe the impact of that ongoing disaster.
We at SANA feel it particularly important to host our annual
conference in New Orleans this year.  The floods that followed
hurricane Katrina killed over 1500 people, destroyed thousands of
homes, and shattered the city's social fabric.  The disaster made
explicit many of the contradictions and conflicts that simmer beneath
the surface much of the time.  Recognizing widespread interest in what
is happening in post-Katrina New Orleans, this conference will go
beyond those typical academic conferences that are housed in
conference centers and hotels in stark isolation from the locales
where they take place.  In addition to research presentations, we will
organize a series of events and activities where conference
participants will be able to visit different neighborhoods, learn
about grassroots efforts to rebuild the city, and engage in dialogue
with activists and others who are fighting against the displacement,
poverty, and racism that have sadly become the hallmarks of New
Orleans's post-Katrina economic recovery.  
For this conference, we seek papers that analyze the genesis, meaning
and consequences of unnatural disasters.  We juxtapose these terms
precisely to encourage participants to raise questions about the
processes of naturalization-and normalization-through which human
agency is rendered visible and invisible first in naming some events
as disasters, in deeming disasters as worthy of both prevention and
remediation, and in defining other events as not disastrous or even
viewing them as serendipitous.  From this stance disasters can include
large scale environmental events, such as floods, hurricanes, oil
spills and earthquakes; the everyday struggles of ordinary people in
marginalized communities; ongoing disasters such as AIDS and
illiteracy.  What, exactly, constitutes a disaster has become one of
the central questions raised by recent events in the Gulf South, the
Middle East, and elsewhere. Indeed, Katrina, like many other 'natural'
catastrophes, put poverty, racism, and the lengths many women must go
to care for their families into the public eye.  It highlighted the
terrible consequences of inadequate investments in public
infrastructure and services in one US city.  And it is already clear
that the response to Katrina-a mixture of failed efforts to help
evacuees and successful creation of crony capitalist opportunities for
business-has remade the political, social, economic and cultural
landscape of an iconic city.
Large scale disasters often lead to calls for fundamental social and
cultural change, but even more often they seem to result in the
reaffirmation of the previous social order.  This conference will
occur at a moment when the calls for change at the site of recent
disasters have not (yet) ceded to the return of "order" and thus
provides a useful context to examine what disasters reveal about our
understandings of the personal and the political, the public and the
private, the distant or remote and the intimate, the natural and the
cultural, the innocent and the guilty, the inevitable and the
avoidable.  In the wake of recent disasters, it seems that a great
deal more than simply rebuilding homes and businesses is at stake.
Papers at this conference might raise questions about the relationship
between disasters of all sorts and the privatization of government
services, disinvestment in infrastructure, increasing inequality,
environmental degradation, the undermining of democratic institutions,
racism and heightened ethnic tensions.  Research that focuses on the
role of academe, the social sciences and anthropology in the context
of disasters will also be welcome.  By confronting our own research
with the reality of a city in the midst of recovery, we will be able
to consider whether or not the unnatural disaster in New Orleans
represents the future of North America.
Topics and geographic areas for panels are open, however, here are
some possible themes for panels and papers:
Disaster cultures:  How do communities and governments define, prepare
for...or ignore disasters?  What kinds of conflicts are there over who
and what should be protected?
Natural/Unnatural Disasters:  How do disasters force people to
reconsider divisions between nature and culture?  Who or what is held
responsible for disaster?
Disaster and human rights:  What happens to the rule of law in
emergency situations?  What do violations human rights-often by the
people charged with enforcing the law-indicate about deeper conflicts
in society?
Race/Class/Gender disasters:  What do disasters reveal about ongoing
inequalities and conflicts rooted in race, class and gender?
Imprisoning disaster:  What is the relationship between the policing
of society, justice and the prison-industrial complex?  How has the
privatization of security services in American cities challenged
fundamental ideas of justice?  What are the consequences of the
militarization of justice in the context of disaster?
Disaster Education:  What constitutes a disaster in education?
Privatization?  Neglect of children and public services?  Floods and
Producing/Mediating Disaster:  What role does the media play in making
a disaster?  How have local groups and activists used new media to
challenge dominant views of disaster?
Disaster and migration:  How does the arrival of new immigrants-rescue
and relief workers, construction workers, new residents-transform a
Disaster diaspora:  Do exiled residents become a diaspora after a
diaspora?  What do terms like "refugee," "exile," "displaced person,"
etc. mean in the context of diaspora?  What becomes of culture in
Economies of Disaster:  How does disaster allow business and
government to reconfigure the economy of a region?  What are the
consequences of disaster for affordable housing, jobs, wages, worker
safety, etc.?  What gets rebuilt and what gets redeveloped in the wake
of disaster?
Governmentality and disaster:  How do governments and leaders
understand all kinds of disasters?  Who do they see and who is
invisible?  How does government reconstruct population in the wake of
disaster?  How can activists and residents remake government?
Please visit the SANA web site, www.sananet.org, for further
information about the conference, instructions for submitting paper
and panel proposals, registration and travel information. Or send an
email to: SANA2007NOLA at gmail.com

David Beriss

Associate Professor and Chair
Department of Anthropology
University of New Orleans
New Orleans, LA 70148
Phone: 504/280-6306

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