Catastrophe and Security

Catastrophe and Security

Peter Van Wyck (Media Studies, Concordia University of Montreal)
Andrew Lakoff (Anthropology, Sociology & Communications, University of Southern California)
Friday, January 13, 2012 / 2:00 PM

Catastrophic events produce radical uncertainty. The temporality of such events varies: they could be sudden, unexpected, but ever-possible (e.g. natural disasters or terrorist attacks) or protracted events whose long duration escapes the human imagination (e.g. radiation toxicity). Speculative projections of disaster, catastrophe, and crisis trigger endless efforts at securing a collective future gainst various forms of macroscalar destruction. This symposium hosts two distinguished speakers, Peter van Wyck and Andrew Lakoff , who have variously addressed speculations of catastrophe in their work. Van Wyck has written extensively on nuclear threats (Signs of Danger: Waste, Trauma, and Nuclear Threat) and Professor Lakoff on public health and biosecurity (Disaster and the Politics of Intervention).

Peter Van Wyck will be speaking on:

“An Archive of Threat”

Professor Van Wyck will trace a route from Canada’s far north, to Japan, Finland and New Mexico. A history written not with lightening, but close; a history written with the energy of restless, recalcitrant matter. The talk hopes to convey some small piece of this story of the nuclear. For this, to paraphrase Stengers, is not simply a matter of power, but an affair of a process, or processes that one must follow. Here, as elsewhere, Van Wyck’s concern is about the constellation of effects wrought by atomic and nuclear threats and disaster; of particular interest are aspects of memory in relation to traumatic transformations of place, of landscape.

Andrew Lakoff will be speaking on:

“Biopolitics in Real Time: The Actuary and the Sentinel in Global Health”

Focusing on recent developments in biosecurity and global health, this talk contrasts two ways of understanding and managing catastrophic disease threats. Whereas an actuarial approach projects the past into the future, a sentinel-based approach assumes that the future cannot be known and that one must remain vigilantly prepared for surprise.

Sponsored by UCSB’s Critical Issues in America series Speculative Futures and the IHC’s Public Goods series.