Disaster and its social impacts

Description: All disasters are the products of history. They occur at
specific times and places; they emerge out of particular conditions
and developments; and they hold certain meanings. Our course has
explored a wide range of disasters — financial crises, volcanic
eruptions, earthquakes, disease pandemics, and technological
In this final course assignment, you’ll dig deeper into the specifics of a
single disaster to showcase some of the concepts and skills you’ve
acquired this year. Your essay can analyze any disaster we’ve
covered in the course except:
• The South Sea Bubble Crash of 1720
• Victorian Railway Accidents
• The Atomic Bombing of Nagasaki
• The Nuclear Meltdowns at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and
Assignment: The paper will use original research to answer the
question: what produced this disaster? To excel on this assignment,
your essay must:

  1. Make an argument about what produced the disaster. In
    choosing your topic and developing your argument, think about:
    • our discussion about the multiple “causes” of disasters
    • our discussion of the blurry lines between “natural” and
    “technological” disasters, for instance.
    • the difference between “events” — like earthquakes or eruptions
    — and the “disasters” that result from them. Your focus should
    be on what produced the disaster. Talk to your TA if this is
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  2. Pay particular attention to context in making your argument.
    • for example: Catholicism helped create the conditions for the
    Lisbon disaster; urban planning helped contain the cholera
    epidemic in Soho, London; the Cold War shaped government
    responses to the Inuit TB epidemic.
    • What historical developments created the conditions of the
    disaster itself? You can draw on the structure of class lectures
    for inspiration, but your essay should go far beyond the material
    covered in class.