Home > Upheavals and catastrophes

Upheavals and catastrophes

Upheavals and catastrophes illuminate natural or man-made events of extraordinary magnitude, which can be destructive as well as transformative. Specific examples of catastrophe include earthquakes, tsunamis, storms, droughts, fire; they also include destruction caused by nuclear or chemical weaponry, scientific and technological disasters, and political, social, cultural revolutions. The effects of catastrophes are drastic and far-reaching. Mass migration, diaspora, and destruction of infrastructure, landscape, or states can trigger enduring, irreversible changes.

Deeply disruptive as they may be, catastrophes can also evoke unexpected, creative transformations. In fact, the history from the Enlightenment to the present leaves no question that catastrophic events are capable of generating innovative texts, images, discourses, narratives, and social movements. These artifacts of catastrophe, in turn, reshape individual or collective experiences, memories, and identities. New worldviews arise in the midst of political upheavals, challenging accepted distinctions such as human vs. nature, victors vs. victims, and virtue vs. crime, in both the Atlantic and Pacific Worlds. There are countless examples of people who, after surviving catastrophes, have offered invaluable lessons about how humans and societies might respond to future disasters.

The experiences of survivors of catastrophic events have also helped create unprecedented, even transgressive forms of art, literature, music, philosophy, and science. In a larger sense, then, catastrophes and upheavals lead us to question accepted notions of race, class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and citizenship, as well as to reconsider seemingly universal understandings of human rights, decency, and morality.  

The people who headed this group in 2017 are Naoko Wake, Sara Wellman, Elena Ruiz, Cindy Ermus, Ronen Steinberg, Matt Worley, Valentina Denzel, and Sharonah Fredrick

The group image is provided by Naoko Wake.

Below you will find an explore button that leads to all of the group's research and then their featured items.

Featured Items

The Great Warming: The Rise and Fall of Civilizations

Demonstrates the effects of climate change from Central America to Europe during the 10th-15th centuries, as well as the later effects which this climate change had on multiple civilizations when these same places were colonized in the later 17th and 18th centuries.

England's Dreaming: Sex Pistols and British Pun

The best overview of punk's emergence, with a focs on UK bit also taking in the US. Savage locates the impulses and aesthetics that informed punk in their historical context to explain why the culture(s) that developed still appear so resonant

Between Vengeance and Forgiveness: Facing History after Genocide and Mass Violence

"A fractured meditation on the incompleteness and inadequacy of each possible response to collective atrocities," is how the author of this work describes what she has written, and it is an apt description. It is a beautiful book, written by a prominent legal scholar. Minow discusses a variety of responses to collective violence, ranging from trials and truth commissions to reparations and memorials. All of these fall somewhere on the range between vengeance and forgiveness. She argues, as has become the standard in the field of transitional justice, that proper legal and political responses to the injustices of the past will have to combine retributive and restorative measures in some way (the former tends to be focused on perpetators; the latter on victims.) The real significance of the book lies in its exploration of the impossible search for closure after catastrophic experiences.