Communication and Culture | Environmental Communication and Public Culture (Topic: Environmental Disasters)
C661 | 26256 | Pezzullo, P.

T, 9:30 AM-12:00 PM, 800 E. 3rd St. – room 272
Meets with CULS-C 701
Open to Graduates Only!

Instructor: Phaedra Pezzullo
Office: 800 E. 3rd St. – room 231
Phone: 855-2106
Instructor Webpage:

Tsunamis drown.  Hurricanes devastate.  Earthquakes demolish.
Asbestos deforms.  Pesticides destroy.  Species die.  Avian flu
spreads.  Heat waves kill.  War creates unspeakable damage.
Corporations pollute.  And accidents--even nuclear ones--happen.

And with each environmental disaster, the ways we communicate and
imagine cultural norms are re-evaluated once again: what needs to be
said or done to prevent future deaths, illness, injury, and damage?
How can we find ways to remember and to make meaning out of the loss
that already has occurred?  Which symbols best convey the
helplessness, anger, fear, generosity, and determination that
disasters provoke?  What are the rhetorical limitations and
possibilities placed on environmental communication practitioners
and scholars when we are imagined as crisis-oriented?  Who has the
right--and the responsibility--to speak for whom?  And what do
responses to disasters say about the health of a democracy?

Answers to such questions belie how each disaster poses dilemmas
that can at once be generalized and remain specific.  This seminar
aims to grapple with the communicative and more broadly cultural
dilemmas posed primarily (though not solely) through American-based
environmental disasters, both “natural” and “human-made.”  As a
seminar grounded in a rhetoric and public culture perspective, we
will focus on constructing arguments about how symbolic and natural
systems are mutually constituted, the situations that move
individuals and collectives to act (or not), and the constraints of
disaster discourses on radical democracy and a sustainable future.