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A History and Theory of an Operative Concept

Edited by: Nitzan Lebovic and Andreas Killen
Catastrophic scenarios dominate our contemporary mindset. Catastrophic events and predictions have spurred new interest in re-examining the history of earlier disasters and the social and conceptual resources they have mobilized. The essays gathered in this volume reconsider the history and theory of different catastrophes and their aftermath. The emphasis is on the need to distance this process of reconsideration from previous teleological representations of catastrophes as an endpoint, and to begin considering their "operative" aspects, which unmask the nature of social and political structures. Among the essays in this volume are analyses, by leading scholars in their respective fields, concerning the role of catastrophes in theology, in the history of industrial accidents, in theory of history, in the history of law, in "catastrophe films", in the history of cybernetics, in post-Holocaust discussions of reparations, and in climate change.

Author Information

Nitzan Lebovic, Lehigh University, USA; Andreas Killen, City College/Graduate Center of the City University of New York.


“ Catastrophic events – political, economic, environmental –have shaped the 20th century. This volume offers originalmeditations on how the concept of catastrophe assumed amodern form – transforming theology, law, psychiatry, scienceand contemporary public policy.”Anson Rabinbach, Professor of History, Princeton University

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Audience: Academics in the field of History, Jewish Studies, Cultural History and Critical Theory