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Catastrophe & Culture: The Anthropology of Disaster (School of American Research Advanced Seminar Series) Paperback – March 1, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-1930618152 ISBN-10: 1930618158 Edition: First Edition

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Catastrophe & Culture: The Anthropology of Disaster (School of American Research Advanced Seminar Series) + Acts of God: The Unnatural History of Natural Disaster in America + The Culture of Calamity: Disaster and the Making of Modern America
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Product Details

  • Series: School of American Research Advanced Seminar Series
  • Paperback: 316 pages
  • Publisher: School for Advanced Research Press; First Edition edition (March 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1930618158
  • ISBN-13: 978-1930618152
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #441,664 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

[T]he contributors to this volume provide a comprehensive account of the nature of disasters, their complex mix of the physical, biological, and socio-cultural, and their use in the elucidation and reconstitution of social life which are the goals of the mining anthropologist... This volume comes out of the School of American Research seminars. This means it is particularly well integrated and interwoven... The end product, then, is a most coherent and interesting read which will resonate with academics and citizens as this brave new millennium of ours continues to present us with new and increasingly complex disasters. --Jonathan Skinner, The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute Vol. 10, no. 4 (December 2004)

[T]he contributors to this volume provide a comprehensive account of the nature of disasters, their complex mix of the physical, biological, and socio-cultural, and their use in the elucidation and reconstitution of social life which are the goals of the mining anthropologist... This volume comes out of the School of American Research seminars. This means it is particularly well integrated and interwoven... The end product, then, is a most coherent and interesting read which will resonate with academics and citizens as this brave new millennium of ours continues to present us with new and increasingly complex disasters. --The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute Vol. 10, no. 4 (December 2004)

These important essays concern both the value of disasters for anthropologists and scholars interested in analyzing cultures and the important insights that an anthropological perspective can offer to the academic study of disaster and to policy makers…. --Choice, vol. 40, no. 5, January 2003

More About the Author

Anthony Oliver-Smith is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the University of Florida. He is also affiliated with the Center for Latin American Studies and the School of Natural Resources and Environment at that institution. In 2005-2009 he held the Munich Re Foundation Chair on Social Vulnerability at the United Nations University Institute on Environment and Human Security in Bonn, Germany. He is currently a member of the Scientific Committee on Integrated Research on Disaster Risk of the International Council for Science. He has done anthropological research and consultation on issues relating to disasters and involuntary resettlement in Peru, Honduras, India, Brazil, Jamaica, Mexico, Japan, and the United States. His work on disasters includes The Martyred City: Death and Rebirth in the Andes (1986, 1992), The Angry Earth: Disaster in Anthropological Perspective (Routledge 1998, co-edited with Susanna M. Hoffman) and Catastrophe and Culture: The Anthropology of Disasters (SAR Press 2003, co-edited with Susanna M. Hoffman). His work on displacement and resettlement include Involuntary Migration and Resettlement: The Problems and Responses of Dislocated Peoples (Westview 1982 co-edited with Art Hansen), Development and Dispossession: The Crisis of Forced Displacement and Resettlement (edited SAR Press, 2009) and Defying Displacement: Grassroots Resistance and the Critique of Development (University of Texas Press 2010). In addition he has authored or co-authored over 60 journal articles and book chapters on disasters and displacement issues.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on December 13, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is one of those books where the Amazon.com referal system worked for me. I would never have found it otherwise. It is a timely book, and it has direct relevance to the 9-11 catastrophe because everything this book talks about in terms of "cultures of catastrophe" (one could call them cultures of oblivion or cultures of inattention) resonates with the findings of the joint congressional panel on the many ways in which the CIA, FBI, and NSA failed America.
What most engaged me about this book, apart from its outstanding attention to the relationship between cultures of inattention or distraction and major catastrophic events (the book makes clear that catastrophe's don't have to happen--they make the jump from disasters when the over-all system of first responders and related parties fails to act quickly and correctly in harmony, precisely because of their past culture), is its focus on the total system, on every feature of society in relation to the environment.
The editors write: "One of the common sources of the policy-practice defect is its construction on culturally bound assumptions. In disaster contexts, aid often gets delivred in inappropriate forms and according to unsuited principles." The book excells at looking at the uneven record of disaster preparedness, and the lack of understanding to local contexts that often help turn disasters into catastrophes.
I recommend this book as a primary reference for national security practitioners as well as state & local responders. The ... billions now in the Homeland Security budget was not designed with this book's lessons in mind, and will in all likelihood do more damage than good when we are tested again.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Lobo on September 26, 2008
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I have just finished the last essay of "Catastrophe & Culture: The Anthropology of Disaster", a collection that offers a deep and stimulating insight into the culture of disaster mechanisms. The collection is built upon a multifaceted and collaborative approach that brilliantly argues that "the conjunction of a human population and a potentially destructive agent does not inevitable produce a disaster" but that "a disaster becomes unavoidable in the context of a historically produced pattern of vulnerability."

Ironically, that last essay I had parked for a while was "Missing Expertise, Categorical Politics, and Chronic Disasters" by S. Ravi Rajan. Here, utilizing the Bhopal disaster as a case study, Rajan argues admirably about the harm that missing different types of expertise can do to prepare and respond to disasters, from contingent expertise that is ready to intervene immediately, to conceptual expertise to cover the broad range of needs of long-term rehabilitation strategies, and ethnographic expertise that refers to the ability to gain contextual and grounded understanding and the capacity to act on that understanding. And in filling modestly some of those gaps is precisely where it resonated with me strongly, as I aim that part my work, and the conversations supported by Disaster Bound can contribute in that direction.

For instance another favorite was "Punctuated Entropy as Culture-Induced Change" by Christopher L. Dyer.
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A collection of papers from a seminar on the role of culture in major disasters and their aftermath, as seen through the prism of anthropology, this book offers great insights into the playing out of a community's response to both natural and man-made catastrophes. While neither New Orleans nor the recent Japanese crisis are mentioned, it seemed to explain a great deal of what happened in those more recent instances. I would have given this book five stars were it not for the fact that the academic language of some papers may prove difficult for non-academic readers, but with patience, it is well worth making the effort.
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