Capitalizing On Catastrophe

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In Capitalizing on Catastrophe an international group of scholars and professionals critically examine how local communities around the world have prepared for and responded to recent cataclysms. The book's principal focus is the increasing trend to rely on the private sector to deal with natural disasters and other forms of large-scale devastation, from hurricanes and tsunamis to civil wars and industrial accidents. Called "disaster capitalism" by its critics, the tendency to contract private interests to solve massive, urgent public problems may be inevitable but is extremely problematic—especially with respect to peoples who need help the most. Can private relief groups give the highest priority to potential and actual victims of large disasters, for example, if that means devoting fewer resources to protecting tourism and other profitable industries? The high-profile contributors to this volume straightforwardly tackle such timely and difficult questions of great public concern.

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Editorial Reviews

Barbara Rose Johnston
Capitalizing on Catastrophe critically examines the motivations and agendas that fuel the political will to act in the name of humanitarian assistance to the large-scale crises and human tragedies of our times. Using diverse examples of disaster from around the world, the authors tease apart the complex continuum of causality, response, and consequence—asking the basic questions of who pays, who profits, and to what effect. In so doing, they put a human face to disaster response, and that face is not a pretty one. Nandini Gunewardena and Mark Schuller have pulled together an incredibly strong collection of case studies, framed in a sharp and clear analysis with pragmatic suggestions for change. In a world of escalating chaos and misery, this collection offers the reader a useful tool to assess recent experiences. More importantly, Capitalizing on Catastrophe offers pragmatic strategies to emphasize human needs in humanitarian response.
Linda M. Whiteford
This is a stunning book that builds on, and extends, previous research on disaster, social vulnerability, and reconstruction. The contributors discuss social vulnerability and neoliberalism, disaster capitalism, humanitarian issues, and cultural data sets from around the world. The book provides a rich combination of ethnography and theory.
From The Foreword - Alexander de Waal
"Moralized discourse served as a protective bubble that provided immunity from rigorous analysis. That bubble has burst, but only on the top floor of the ivory tower. The overwhelming majority of media coverage and academic writing remains entrapped in an untheorized consensus that relief and rehabilitation are good things beyond rebuke. Capitalizing on Catastrophe is an important exercise in scholarship. It brings the phenomenon of neo-liberal disaster capitalism into sharp focus, defining the field in a theoretical and comparative manner and exploring some important case studies. This book is also an essential exercise in framing an emergent public policy issue."
Spring 2010 Human Ecology
The book's strengths lie in the breadth of its case studies and its impressive balance between fine ethnographic detail and consistency of argument in which neither is sacrificed. Owing to its accessible writing and analytically coherent selection of research, Capitalizing on Catastrophe will be of great interest to students, scholars, and general readers concerned about the insidious machinations at work in the global field of disaster capitalism. It is both shocking and convincing.
Alexis Pierce
Valuable suggestions on emergency situations take on a new light and potential importance. The volume draws strength from the variety of case studies and broad experience of the contributing authors, many of whom spent years in the discussed communities, interviewing stakeholders and compiling data.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780759111035
  • Publisher: AltaMira Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2008
  • Series: Globalization and the Environment Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.08 (w) x 9.15 (h) x 0.58 (d)

Meet the Author

Nandini Gunewardena is adjunct professor at Western Washington University. Mark Schuller is assistant professor of anthropology and African American studies at the City University of New York.

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Table of Contents

Part 1 Part I. Framing the Capitalization of Catastrophes Chapter 2 Chapter 1. Human Security versus Neoliberal Approaches to Disaster Recovery Chapter 3 Chapter 2. Deconstructing the Disaster after the Disaster: Conceptualizing Disaster Capitalism Chapter 4 Chapter 3. Through a Glass, Darkly: Humanitarianism and Empire Part 5 Part II. Tourism as Reconstruction Chapter 6 Chapter 4. International Tourism and Disaster Capitalism: The Case of Hurricane Mitch in Honduras Chapter 7 Chapter 5. Peddling Paradise, Rebuilding Serendib: The 100-Meter Refugees versus the Tourism Industry in Post-tsunami Sri Lanka Chapter 8 Chapter 6. The Resilience of Vulnerable Households: Adjusting to Neoliberal Capitalism in the Aftermath of Hurricane Iris Part 9 Part III. Exposing Katrina: Class, Race, and Displacement Chapter 10 Chapter 7. Race, Class, and the Politics of Death: Critical Responses to Hurricane Katrina Chapter 11 Chapter 8. Disaster, Displacement and Employment: Distortion of Labor Markets During Post-Katrina Reconstruction Chapter 12 Chapter 9. Class Inequality, Liberal Bad Faith, and Neoliberalism: the True Disaster of Katrina Part 13 Part IV. Prolonging Recovery: Bypassing Accountability and Transparency Chapter 14 Chapter 10. Capitalization of Post-9/11 Recovery Chapter 15 Chapter 11. The Foul Odor of Capital: The Union Carbide Disaster in Bhopal, India Part 16 Part V. Dividends of Conflict: Reconstruction as Reform Chapter 17 Chapter 12. "Haiti is Finished!" Haiti's End of History Meets the Ends of Capitalism Chapter 18 Chapter 13. After the Storm: The Aftermath of Guatemala's Post-Civil War Part 19 Part VI. Conclusion: Envisioning Alternatives: Seven Pragmatic Proposals to Advance Human Security in Disaster Assistance and Recovery

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 11, 2009

    Great and informative reading!

    Gunewardena and Schuller nailed it on this very interesting volume of case-studies. For anyone interested in development studies, this book is a must read! I had the privilege of attending a seminar and lecture by Gunewardena and she is just a very interesting and knowledgeable person.

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