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America's Disaster Culture : The Production of Natural Disasters in Literature and Pop Culture
Bloomsbury Academic

America's Disaster Culture : The Production of Natural Disasters in Literature and Pop Culture

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America's Disaster Culture
Author(s): Robert C. Bell, Robert M. Ficociello

Are we inside the era of disasters or are we merely inundated by mediated accounts of events categorized as catastrophic? America's Disaster Culture offers answers to this question and a critical theory surrounding the culture of “natural” disasters in American consumerism, literature, media, film, and popular culture.

In a hyper-mediated global culture, disaster events reach us with great speed and minute detail, and Americans begin forming, interpreting, and historicizing catastrophes simultaneously with fellow citizens and people worldwide. America's Disaster Culture is not policy, management, or relief oriented. It offers an analytical framework for the cultural production and representation of disasters, catastrophes, and apocalypses in American culture. It focuses on filling a need for critical analysis centered upon the omnipresence of real and imagined disasters, epidemics, and apocalypses in American culture. However, it also observes events, such as the Dust Bowl, Hurricane Katrina, and 9/11, that are re-framed and re-historicized as “natural” disasters by contemporary media and pop culture. Therefore, America's Disaster Culture theorizes the very parameters of classifying any event as a “natural” disaster, addresses the biases involved in a catastrophic event's public narrative, and analyzes American culture's consumption of a disastrous event. Looking toward the future, what are the hypothetical and actual threats to disaster culture? Or, are we oblivious that we are currently living in a post-apocalyptic landscape?


America's Disaster Culture is an excellent contribution to the growing body of literature that explores the social construction of natural disasters. Bell and Ficociello provide a much-needed, full-length study of the importance of popular culture in channeling the stories we tell about disasters: stories of experience, witness, responsibility, and memory. A vital question in this volume is to what extent capitalism feeds a seemingly ever-present, inescapable stream of disaster events and disaster images. From Hurricane Katrina to The Walking Dead, the authors explore the limits and costs of a disaster culture.” —Ann Larabee, Professor of English, Michigan State University, USA, and editor of the Journal of Popular Culture

“An exciting, lively and innovative investigation of the role played by capitalism and popular culture in the production and consumption of 'disaster culture.' Bell and Ficociello adroitly combine discussions of Wikipedia with readings of John Steinbeck and Cormac McCarthy, the philosophising of Jean Baudrillard with dissections of reality TV, critiques of HBO series with zombie movies and CNN, children's books, grunge music and Hollywood blockbusters in order to provide a comprehensive mapping of how 'disaster narratives' evolve in contemporary culture.” —Rune Graulund, Associate Professor in American Literature and Culture, University of Southern Denmark, Denmark

“If the first decade and a half of the 21st century has taken a deep toll on the American spirit, not all the blame can be placed on political, economic, and social causes, as obvious as these are. Nature too seems to have darkened, slamming the country with 'once-in-a-lifetime' hurricanes, floods, and droughts. In America's Disaster Culture, Robert C. Bell and Robert M. Ficociello examine a century's worth of calamities to show that there is nothing new in the media exploitation and cultural consumption of events resulting from the collision of natural forces and human actions. The authors confirm what many Americans already suspect-that the boundary between an actual event and a cultural commodity has dissolved, that how we understand what has happened is decided by what we have been told, shown, and sold.” —James J. Ward, Professor of History, Cedar Crest College, USA

ISBN:  9781501351990