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Disaster Writing

The Cultural Politics of Catastrophe in Latin America

Mark D. Anderson

Publication Year: 2011

In the aftermath of disaster, literary and other cultural representations of the event can play a role in the renegotiation of political power. In Disaster Writing, Mark D. Anderson analyzes four natural disasters in Latin America that acquired national significance and symbolism through literary mediation: the 1930 cyclone in the Dominican Republic, volcanic eruptions in Central America, the 1985 earthquake in Mexico City, and recurring drought in northeastern Brazil.

Taking a comparative and interdisciplinary approach to the disaster narratives, Anderson explores concepts such as the social construction of risk, landscape as political and cultural geography, vulnerability as the convergence of natural hazard and social marginalization, and the cultural mediation of trauma and loss. He shows how the political and historical contexts suggest a systematic link between natural disaster and cultural politics.

Published by: University of Virginia Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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Introduction: Approaching Disaster

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pp. 1-28

Nothing shakes one’s worldview more than the experience of a natural disaster. Disaster by definition is conceived of as a rupture or inversion of the normal order of things; natural disaster denotes that moment of disjuncture when nature topples what we see as...

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1. Disaster and the “New Patria”: Cyclone San Zenón and Trujillo’s Rewriting of the Dominican Republic

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pp. 29-55

The hurricane that struck the Dominican Republic on September 2 and 3, 1930, caused unprecedented damage to the nation’s capital, disrupting severely the nation’s infrastructure as well as its self-image. Santo Domingo’s iconic Río Ozama overflowed with the hurricane’s...

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2. Drought and the Literary Construction of Risk in Northeastern Brazil

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pp. 56-106

The sertão, the arid interior of northeastern Brazil, holds a peculiar position in the Brazilian imagination. It is a mythical geography of contradictory fantasies, populated by honest-to-a-fault cowboys and corrupt politicians, Robin Hood–like cangaceiros who rape and pillage...

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3. Volcanic Identities: Explosive Nationalism and the Disastered Subject in Central American Literature

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pp. 107-144

Volcanic eruptions figure among the most destructive natural forces conceivable in the human imagination. Memories of the incredible devastation wreaked by volcanoes on human populations from Pompeii, Italy, to Krakatau, Indonesia, and Paricutín, Mexico...

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4. Fault Lines: Mexico’s 1985 Earthquake and the Politics of Narration

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pp. 145-190

The earthquake that convulsed Mexico City at 7:19 in the morning on September 19, 1985, altered irrevocably a generation’s view of life in Mexico. Despite a long and well-documented history of disasters in the area, appearing in texts as far back as pre-Columbian...

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Conclusion: On Writing and the Nationalization of Catastrophe

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pp. 191-196

This book sprang from my interest in how disasters catalyze lasting political and cultural changes and in the roles that writing has played in promoting and consolidating those changes throughout Latin America. I have argued that disasters force the renegotiation and...


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pp. 197-218

Works Cited

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pp. 219-236


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pp. 237-242

New World Studies

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E-ISBN-13: 9780813932033
E-ISBN-10: 0813932033
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813931968
Print-ISBN-10: 0813931967

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2011