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Governing Affect

Neoliberalism and Disaster Reconstruction

Roberto E. Barrios

Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
Imprint: University of Nebraska Press
Published: 05/2017
Pages: 324
Subject: Social Science
eBook ISBN: 9781496200143


Roberto E. Barrios presents an ethnographic study of the aftermaths of four natural disasters: southern Honduras after Hurricane Mitch; New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina; Chiapas, Mexico, after the Grijalva River landslide; and southern Illinois following the Mississippi River flood. Focusing on the role of affect, Barrios examines the ways in which people who live through disasters use emotions as a means of assessing the relevance of governmentally sanctioned recovery plans, judging the effectiveness of such programs, and reflecting on the risk of living in areas that have been deemed prone to disaster. Emotions such as terror, disgust, or sentimental attachment to place all shape the meanings we assign to disasters as well as our political responses to them.  The ethnographic cases in Governing Affect highlight how reconstruction programs, government agencies, and recovery experts often view postdisaster contexts as opportune moments to transform disaster-affected communities through principles and practices of modernist and neoliberal development. Governing Affect brings policy and politics into dialogue with human emotion to provide researchers and practitioners with an analytical toolkit for apprehending and addressing issues of difference, voice, and inequity in the aftermath of catastrophes.    


Roberto E. Barrios is an associate professor of anthropology at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.    


"Seamlessly weaving together poststructural theory, political economy, ethnography, and personal narrative, Roberto Barrios opens new terrain for understanding why disaster reconstruction so often falls short in addressing the needs of disaster victims by failing to recognize the power of affect."—Anthony Oliver-Smith, author of The Martyred City: Death and Rebirth in the Andes  

"A major contribution to disaster scholarship . . . [and] provocative enough to provide an interesting classroom debate."—William L. Waugh Jr., coeditor of Emergency Management: Principles and Practice for Local Government, 2nd edition  

"In crystal clear, step-by-step prose, illuminated by four heart-wrenching examples, Roberto Barrios strips bare the ways pre- and postdisaster agencies and development schemes ignore the crucial importance of a vulnerable or devastated people's well-being."—Susanna M. Hoffman, coeditor of The Angry Earth: Disaster in Anthropological Perspective