Sunday, November 1, 2020

Watching Sandy at Yale

I am teaching a course at Yale this semester on the history of disasters -- "Disasters in America" -- and Hurricane Sandy has made landfall on the syllabus right between a class on terrorism as disaster, and a class on the 1927 Mississippi River Flood. As Sandy unfolds, I have been reminded of the pioneering sociologist of disaster Charles Fritz, who sounded a little disappointed in 1960 when he wrote, “The social scientist, unlike the engineer, cannot produce destructive experiments at will.” While I wouldn’t wish a big storm on anybody (neither would Fritz, surely), for me and my students, watching the storm and its aftermath has offered a special opportunity to test the theories and insights we've been developing so far this term. 

Based on our understanding of past hurricanes, floods, fires, earthquakes, and other calamitous events in American history, we are developing a list of what we’ll be watching for in Sandy’s aftermath. Stay tuned for updates from me and my students.

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