[URBANTH-L] CFP: Unnatural Disasters, SANA Spring 2007 Conference (New Orleans)

Angela Jancius jancius at ohio.edu
Tue Oct 31 17:22:45 EST 2006

From: David I Beriss <DBeriss at uno.edu>

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.

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 in New 
Orleans killed over 1500 people, destroyed thousands of homes, and shattered 
the city's social fabric.  It made explicit many of the contradictions and 
conflicts that simmer beneath the surface much of the time.  Katrina makes 
visible what is often taken-for-granted or overlooked in everyday life. 
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 

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 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 community?

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 exile?

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 

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