Spring 2016

Inquiries into the Catastrophic

Listed in: Special Seminar, as COLQ-340


Christopher T. Dole (Section 01)


News of large-scale disasters and impending catastrophes multiply day by day—news that heralds irreparable ecological devastation, the unbounded ravages of infectious disease, the geological and atmospheric precariousness of “nature,” and the mounting toll of civil wars and non-state political violence. Indeed, by many accounts, we are now living in the “Age of Catastrophe.” Not only has the language of catastrophe established itself as a defining idiom of life and survival in the contemporary world, it has also taken hold as both a backdrop to and condition for the intimate terrain of our everyday lives—as schoolchildren are taught to prepare for massacres and natural disasters, local police departments train and equip for terrorist attacks, communities come into existence to share strategies and scenarios to “prep” for the “next disaster,” and new forms of leisure and media consumption grow around wildly varying visions of the world’s destruction. This course sets out to critically engage disaster and catastrophe as conceptual challenges and, through this engagement, introduce students to catastrophe and large-scale disaster as objects of scholarly inquiry. That is, this course will expose students to a range of disciplinary approaches that scholars have developed in examining the effects of disaster on people, communities, and the world. By the end of the semester, students will have gained significant experience in developing original research. They will have a sense of what it means to identify researchable questions, evaluate relevant approaches to a topic, and formulate a viable research design. This course is part of a model of tutorials at Amherst designed to enable students to engage in substantive research with faculty.

Open to sophomores and juniors interested in research.  Limited to 6 students. Spring semester. Professor C. Dole.

If Overenrolled: Professor will seek a mix of academic backgrounds and knowledge


Attention to Research


2020-21: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2016