Skip to Gallatin Navigation Skip to Gallatin Main Content
21 Sep
The Jerry H. Labowitz Theatre for the Performing Arts
Sep 21, 2018 | 9:00 AM-6:00 PM


Critical Disaster Studies Conference

From the Biblical story of Noah’s flood to science fiction fantasies of nuclear war, disasters loom large in the human imagination. Building on previous generations of scholarship about disaster, the developing field of critical disaster studies seeks to find greater theoretical engagement, interdisciplinary approaches, and critical interrogation of the concept of disaster itself, as well as the related concepts of risk, vulnerability, security, and resilience. The Critical Disaster Studies Conference will bring together new and established scholars of disaster—including geographers, historians, anthropologists, and sociologists—to evaluate the state of this emergent field and to chart pathways for future research.

​Presentations will be held on Friday, September 21st, and will be followed by a keynote address by Kenneth Hewitt of Wilfrid Laurier University.

Participants include:
Aaron Clark-Ginsberg (RAND Corporation); Pranathi Diwakar (University of Chicago); ​Rebecca Elliott (London School of Economics); Louis Gerdelan (Harvard)​; Ryan Hagen (Columbia); Scott Knowles (Drexel); Susan (Scotti) Parrish (University of Michigan); Claire Payton (University of Virginia); Kerry Smith (Brown); Dara Strolovitch (Princeton); and Chika Watanabe (University of Manchester)

Organizing committee: Jacob Remes (NYU Gallatin), Elizabeth Angell (Columbia), and Andy Horowitz (Tulane)

This event is co-sponsored by NYU Gallatin and the Institute for Public Knowledge at NYU is free and open to the public. For more information, email



Friday, September 21
9:00 am     Coffee, registration
9:15 am     Introductions

9:30-11:15 am

Karen Holmberg (NYU Gallatin), chair

Scott Knowles (Drexel University, History)

“Disaster as Method: A Review of the Disaster Field”

Ryan Hagen (Columbia University, Sociology)
“Acts of God, Man, and System: Knowledge, Technology, and the Construction of Disaster”

Louis Gerdelan (Harvard University, History)
“Disciplinary Disasters: Science, Astrology and Rival Interpretations of Calamity in Late Seventeenth-Century Europe” 

10:45-11:00 am    Break

11:00 am-12:15 pm

Marie Cruz Soto (NYU Gallatin), chair

Dara Strolovitch (Princeton University, Gender and Sexuality Studies and Politics)
“When Does a Crisis Begin? Race, Gender, and the Subprime Non-Crisis of the Late 1990s”

Claire Payton (University of Virginia, African and African American Studies)
“Concrete, Construction, and Kleptocracy: Building the Foundations of Disaster in Haiti” 

Pranathi Diwakar (University of Chicago, Sociology)
“A Recipe for Disaster: Framing Risk and Vulnerability in Slum Relocation Policies in Chennai, India”

12:15-1:45 pm    Lunch  


Rosalind Fredericks (NYU Gallatin), chair

Aaron Clark-Ginsberg (RAND Corporation)
“Risk Technopolitics in Freetown Slums, or Why Community Based Risk Management Is no Silver Bullet

Chika Watanabe (University of Manchester, Social Anthropology)
“Translating Disaster Preparedness between Japan and Chile”

Rebecca Elliott (London School of Economics, Sociology)
“Plan B: The Collapse of Public-Private Risk Sharing in the US National Flood Insurance Program”

3:00-3:15 pm    Break

3:15-4:15 pm

Eugenia Kisin (NYU Gallatin), chair

Susan (Scotti) Parrish (University of Michigan, English and the Program in the Environment)
“Disaster and the Novel: A Shared History”

Kerry Smith (Brown University, History)
“The Tōkai Earthquake and Changing Lexicons of Risk”

4:15-4:30 pm    Break

4:30-6:00 pm    Keynote
Kenneth Hewitt (Wilfrid Laurier University, Geography and Environmental Studies)

“‘Acts of men’: Interpreting Disasters of Dearth, Accident, Violence, and Organized Indifference”