AUTHOR OF HEAT WAVE: SOCIAL AUTOPSY OF A DISASTER TO DISCUSS DISASTERS, POVERTY AND POLICY IN KATRINA'S WAKE
For years, experts had been warning of the potential for a meteorological catastrophe, but as the threatening weather system approached, key public officials left their posts to take vacations. They didn't return until days after the bodies of the victims — mostly poor, black and elderly — began to pile up. Sociologist Eric Klinenberg, who will give a public lecture at Bryn Mawr College on Nov. 15, published a thorough examination of these events and the social conditions that led to them — more than two years before Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast.
Klinenberg's book, Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago, deals with an earlier weather crisis that took more than 700 lives in Chicago during a single week of 1995. The tale's eerie resonance with the recent disaster on the Gulf Coast, he says, illustrates the failure of officials at all levels of government to absorb the lessons of the Chicago heat wave. Klinenberg will discuss the endemic social problems that are revealed by disasters in "Cities and Disasters," a lecture in Thomas Great Hall, Bryn Mawr College, on Tuesday, Nov. 15, from 8 to 10 p.m.
Klinenberg, an associate professor of sociology at New York University, has won broad acclaim for his work in Heat Wave. Says Charles Taylor of Salon.com: "What makes Heat Wave such an essential book at this moment in American politics is that, using the 1995 heat wave as his paradigm, Klinenberg has written a forceful account of what it means to be poor, old, sick and alone in the era of American entrepreneurial government. … It's hard to put down Heat Wave without believing you've just read a tale of slow murder by public policy."
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