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THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF NATURAL DISASTERS

World Tensions/Tensôes Mundiais/Tensiones Mundiales Journal

CALL FOR PAPERS: The Political Economy of Natural Disasters

The history of our planet has been punctuated by disasters such as tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, flooding and nuclear incidents. Corporate media deal with these phenomena through sensationalism, attributing to nature the tragic consequences of what is often the result of human action: the villain is nature. Such a perspective avoids consideration of capitalist development in shaping natural disasters. The takeover of ancestral lands and displacement/removal of indigenous peoples to make way for hydroelectric plants in the Americas or Africa rarely gain the  attention and scrutiny of global news outlets.

This recent “decade of disaster” has given rise to a new scholarly literature on the effects of environmental crisis and catastrophe; how they are represented through the global media, neoliberal political and economic structures; and a growing consensus on the reality of climate change. In other words, these events bring into sharp relief the relationships between economic and ecological crisis, social and environmental injustice, and questions of how we are to live amidst uncertainty and ecological change.

Understanding the political economy of natural disasters draws attention to two pressing realities. The first is the need to resituate environmental “disaster” not as a series of external events or “shocks” as Naomi Klein (2007) calls them, but as part of a continuous and ongoing crisis. This idea is informed by Klein’s notion of disaster capitalism: a predatory scheme that “uses the destruction and fear created by catastrophe to engage in radical social and economic engineering.” The broad insight from Klein’s “shock doctrine” is that natural disasters can be mobilised to generate “superprofits” that perpetuate ongoing displacement and situated vulnerabilities for communities that are in harm’s way. The second reality is the need to think critically about what is “natural” about natural disasters. Historical materialist perspectives emphasise historically entrenched social and economic vulnerabilities that are often hidden in the spectacle of extreme “acts of nature” (Davis 1999). The political economy of natural disasters focuses on the relationship between uneven development and social disinvestment, neoliberal economic policies, environmental pollution and destruction, how these amplify social and ecological crises in particular places and how they impact upon livelihoods, ways of life and the biosphere.

In this issue of TM, we wish to examine the relationship nature-society, establishing the close ties between these “natural disasters” and the multifaceted processes of the construction of nationalities. Nations are consolidated through struggle and occupation of territory. In this sense, clinging to the “homeland” is one of the formative elements of national sentiment, cultivated in the hymns that exalt natural wealth, the beauty of the country, or the greatness of the territory, however small and devoid of resources it may be. The construction of nationalities is therefore often predicated on colonial and capitalist understandings of nature that view it as an economic (or aesthetic) resource.  The political economy of natural disasters lies at the heart of conflicts over resources within nation states and within the increasingly problematic terrain of environmental crises that transcend national borders. We aim to open up the discourse of disaster to critical analysis and debate.

Therefore we seek theoretically informed and historically situated papers that explore the practices of power and resistance that emerge out of (and against) the contingencies associated with “natural” disasters. We welcome contributions that approach the topics from a variety of disciplines. Areas of interest may include:

  • The political economy of disaster capitalism
  • The neoliberalisation of nature: resource conflicts, mining
  • Indigenous knowledge and land rights
  • Indigenous resistance to capitalist expansion
  • Urban planning and demography under capitalism and natural disasters
  • What is natural about natural disasters?
  • Environmental and climate justice in cities and regions
  • Political economy, natural disasters and the media
  • Environmental crisis, risk and vulnerability
  • Living in the aftermath of environmental disasters
  • Continuous crisis: rethinking the discourses and politics of environmental disaster
  • Political ecologies of disaster: poverty, environmental transformation and uneven development
  • Alternative knowledges and practices: resisting the contingencies of disaster capitalism
  • Legislation, international agreements and environmental policies

Articles and book reviews can be submitted using the guidelines available at http://www.tensoesmundiais.net/index.php/tm

For a PDF copy of the CFP, or further information, please contact one of the issue editors in the language indicated:

Taeli Gómez taelig@yahoo.es (for Spanish)

Sandy Grande smgra@conncoll.edu (for English)

Francisco Amaro Gomes famaro@ufc.br (for Portuguese)

Para la convocatoria en castellano, favor comunicarse con Taeli Gómez taelig@yahoo.es 

 

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

The Flow of Ideas: http://www.flowideas.co.uk