‘Time, Intermediality and Transregional Imaginaries in Disaster Discourse’

In the early 21th century, transregional imaginaries are defined to a staggering extent by the representation of disasters. How did this tendency to exhibit the exceptional as part of the ordinary come about? My current research explores the long-term history of representing natural disasters and other extreme events. The spectacular representation of volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and floods has a long history, e.g. in 18th century theater, 19th century fairgrounds and 20th century disaster movies. But in the last two decades, the conditions for representing nature dramas have changed fundamentally. Not only has daily interaction with new media meant that audiences around the world can see how nature dramas are unfolding in real-time and over great distances; the issue of climate change and changing landscapes has created a new, transregional frame of understanding in which catastrophes that take place on large distances from each other are being connected in new ways. To what extent does this development reflect a more matter-of-fact attitude towards apocalyptic imagery? How can the representation of catastrophes help to create a sense of participation in publics and communities that not only transcends space but also time? During my stay at CRASSH, I will concentrate on a case-study on a contemporary media format, which globally distributes images of catastrophes and dramatic natural phenomena on a daily basis: moving pictures via web TV on web news services.


Anders Ekström is a Visiting Fellow at CRASSH, Lent 2013.

He is Professor of History of Science and Ideas at Uppsala University, Sweden. After receiving his PhD in 1994, Ekström has worked as a teacher, researcher and research director at several Swedish universities and research institutes. He has been awarded for his commitment to interdisciplinary research and for initiating debates on the role of the humanities in future societies. His general fields of interest are media and cultural history, visual culture and cultural theory, and much of his research has been focused on the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Among his recent publications are a collection of introductory essays on historiography and cultural theory, a monograph on media sociality at the turn of the twentieth century, and the co-edited volume History of Participatory Media: Politics and Publics, 1750-2000 (Routledge, 2011). He has contributed articles to journals such as Early Popular Visual Culture, Nineteenth-Century Contexts: An Interdisciplinary Journal and Media, Culture and Society.


Tel: +44 1223 766886