Dr. Robert Ficociello, Assistant Professor of Writing for the School of Arts and Sciences, has co-edited a book titled Eco Culture: Disaster, Narrative, Discourse. Eco Culture is a progressive continuation from his last book, America’s Disaster Culture: The Production of Natural Disasters in Literature and Pop Culture, which was published in October 2017.
Eco Culture: Disaster, Narrative, Discourse opens a conversation about the mediated relationship between culture and ecology. The dynamic between these two great forces comes into stark relief when a disaster—in its myriad forms and narratives—reveals the fragility of our ecological and cultural landscapes. Disasters are the clashing of culture and ecology in violent and tragic ways, and the results of each clash create profound effects to both. So much so, in fact, that the terms ecology and culture are past separation. Ecology and culture are unified.
Ficociello worked alongside Robert Bell, Director for Learning Resources and Writing at Loyola University New Orleans on this project.
“Because we served as editors, we were able to take a global approach to the supplementary relationship between ecology and culture,” Ficociello said. “Our first book focused on American disasters starting the 20th century, and Eco Culture provides a highly contemporary and deeper view. Because of our involvement with the Pop Culture/American Culture Association and the unfortunate regularity of disasters—natural or otherwise—a few publishers approached us about doing projects. Eco Culture granted us the opportunity to publish scholars who are researching interesting and important aspects of disasters.”
Eco Culture: Disaster, Narrative, Discourse is a collection of scholarly works examining culture and ecology. Topics covered include actual events, such as Boston Marathon bombing, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and Occupy Sandy. The other half of the collection addresses literature and film about disasters.
“My co-editor I chose to begin the collection with Amy Lantinga’s article [about the Boston Marathon Bombing] because it showed the level of commercialization and commodification that disasters have risen toward,” Ficociello said. “In addition, two feature films about the event came out recently. One argument that could be made from this disaster is that disasters are the strongest binder of communities. Not to be cute, but nationalism is hyper-politicized to the point of being used as a divider of communities. Our immediate response to disasters might be the only thing we now have for setting aside political differences toward a common goal: surviving. Given what is still happening in Puerto Rico, we might be losing this too.”
Ficociello said that the big takeaway from the new book has to do about political and economic ramifications when it comes to these disasters.
“For example, with the goals of economic progress, be it GDP, job growth, or trade deficits, what are the human and natural resources we use up,” he said. “Ecology, wage gaps, pollution, and people can be the exchanged for ‘progress.’ These are transnational issues addressed in the essays about disaster and disaster narratives. My nihilistic perspective is that capitalism is an ideology in which we will never be able to see from the outside or possess an ability to see beyond. Others may hold onto something more hopeful. We already watch disasters on social media, and I think that because global warming is so big we have trouble commodifying it. We trust Red Cross with our money, and strangely enough, we trust politicians—not scientists–with our environment.”