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Keywords:

  • disaster;
  • cultural meaning of;
  • power

Abstract

After the two major nuclear disasters I have witnessed in my life, Chernobyl and Fukushima, I experienced uncertainty that seemed stronger than fear, anger or panic. In George Button's excellent work I found my personal experience of uncertainty explained as a cultural phenomenon that indeed prevails after all natural and manmade disasters. He has been studying disasters for over 30 years as an academic and a reporter. He covered and reported on, for example, the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster, the Exxon Valdes oil spill, and Hurricane Katrina. His book tells a powerful story about US disasters and their cultural aspects. However, I think that Button's research methodology and his findings can be applied to the Japanese situation as well. On the one hand, his book can serve as a warning on how not to act in the face of calamity if we want our culture to survive the suffering, and, on the other, it can serve as inspiration for domestic research on the most recent Japanese calamity. Button is interested in the way a disaster becomes a cultural, social and political phenomenon where uncertainty prevails and his focus on uncertainty as a main category seems to be a pioneering attempt that his book extends from previous studies. He focuses on uncertainty as an experience of affected people as well as the politics of uncertainty inflected in a time of calamity and finds that the two aspects are correlative.