Governing Affect


Governing Affect

Neoliberalism and Disaster Reconstruction

Roberto E. Barrios

Anthropology of Contemporary North America Series

306 pages
8 photographs, 2 illustrations, 10 maps, index


May 2017


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May 2017


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May 2017


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May 2017


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About the Book

Roberto E. Barrios presents an ethnographic study of the aftermaths of four natural disasters: southern Honduras after Hurricane Mitch; New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina; Chiapas, Mexico, after the Grijalva River landslide; and southern Illinois following the Mississippi River flood. Focusing on the role of affect, Barrios examines the ways in which people who live through disasters use emotions as a means of assessing the relevance of governmentally sanctioned recovery plans, judging the effectiveness of such programs, and reflecting on the risk of living in areas that have been deemed prone to disaster. Emotions such as terror, disgust, or sentimental attachment to place all shape the meanings we assign to disasters as well as our political responses to them. 

The ethnographic cases in Governing Affect highlight how reconstruction programs, government agencies, and recovery experts often view postdisaster contexts as opportune moments to transform disaster-affected communities through principles and practices of modernist and neoliberal development. Governing Affect brings policy and politics into dialogue with human emotion to provide researchers and practitioners with an analytical toolkit for apprehending and addressing issues of difference, voice, and inequity in the aftermath of catastrophes. 



Author Bio

Roberto E. Barrios is an associate professor of anthropology at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.


"This is an excellent book, and a must read for those interested in the anthropology of disaster or theories of affect. Barrios's focus on social and environmental justice, partnered with his offhand, vernacular definitions and ethnographic presentations of concepts such as neoliberalism, modernity, postcolonialism, and disaster ethics, among other key concepts in anthropology, also makes the book a useful text for many upper division undergraduate courses or any graduate seminar in disaster studies or environmental justice."—Elizabeth Marino, Journal of Anthropological Research

"Governing Affect: Neoliberalism and Disaster Reconstruction and Disaster Upon Disaster, two books by Roberto E. Barrios, Anthropology, are showcased on a “new reads” list by the University of Colorado’s Natural Hazards Center. The center, a leading National Science Foundation-designated information clearing house, compiles this list to highlight cutting-edge research that bridges the gap between academics and practitioners focused on disaster risk reduction."—SIUC News

“Seamlessly weaving together poststructural theory, political economy, ethnography, and personal narrative, Roberto Barrios opens new terrain for understanding why disaster reconstruction so often falls short in addressing the needs of disaster victims by failing to recognize the power of affect.”—Anthony Oliver-Smith, author of The Martyred City: Death and Rebirth in the Andes

“A major contribution to disaster scholarship . . . [and] provocative enough to provide an interesting classroom debate.”—William L. Waugh Jr., coeditor of Emergency Management: Principles and Practice for Local Government, 2nd edition

“In crystal clear, step-by-step prose, illuminated by four heart-wrenching examples, Roberto Barrios strips bare the ways pre- and postdisaster agencies and development schemes ignore the crucial importance of a vulnerable or devastated people’s well-being.”—Susanna M. Hoffman, coeditor of The Angry Earth: Disaster in Anthropological Perspective

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Author’s Note
Introduction: Affect and Emotions in Disaster Reconstruction
1. Powerful Feelings: Emotions and Governmentality in Disaster Research
2. Hallarse: Defining Recovery in Affective Terms
3. Feelings of Inequity: Gender and the Postcolonial Modernity of Disaster Reconstruction
4. The Marero: Terror and Disgust in the Aftermath of Mitch
5. Ecologies of Affect and Affective Regimes: The Neoliberal Reconstruction of New Orleans
6. How to Care? The Contested Affects of Disaster Recovery in the Lower Ninth Ward
7. Criollos, Creoles, and the Mobile Taquerias: Latinophobia in Post-Katrina New Orleans
8. To Love a Small Town: The Political Ecology of Affect in the Middle Mississippi
9. Rebuilding It Better: The Ethical Challenges of Disaster Recovery
10. The Anthropology of Affect and Disasters: From Critique to Practice

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