The Antimonies of Nature and Space
Harris, Leila M.
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Maria, Irma, Harvey, Katrina – these have become more than names. They represent several of the most recent hurricanes that have devastated communities across North America and the Caribbean. As nature–society encounters, these massive storms elevated a range of historical, sociocultural, and political economic issues to the fore – from colonialism and race, to growing patterns of inequality, government mismanagement, and the politics of knowledge related to climate change. Media coverage of these events recalls early scholarly interventions by critical disaster studies scholars that highlighted the myriad ways that ‘disasters’ are not only results of climatic or geologic forces, but are connected to historical, sociocultural, and institutional dynamics. It has become increasingly accepted that race, caste, ethnicity, income, and other patterns of inequality must be considered when evaluating the risk and outcomes of storms, earthquakes, droughts or other ‘natural’ events. Indeed, the recent aftermath of hurricanes in the Caribbean cast a spotlight on long-standing political and economic inequalities between the U.S. and its quasi-imperial territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands – whether about the pathways and futures of inequality and vulnerability on the islands, or the slow and inadequate governmental response.