The Global Culture Project

Culture and Catastrophe

Working Group

The problems of disaster and calamity are endemic to human existence and constantly threaten to intrude upon and disrupt the security of our lives. Economic crisis, natural disaster, political violence, war, famine, ecological crisis, and pandemic disease, name only the most prevalent threats to human flourishing. The persistence and frequency of these traumatic episodes and experiences raise age-old questions: Why does such evil and ill fortune exist? Why do some people flourish while others suffer and perish? Who or what is responsible? How can we mitigate or prevent these things from happening in the future? The Culture and Catastrophe Working Group studies how modern institutions attempt to answer these questions for our increasingly global civilization and how such attempts compare with how human communities have answered these questions in other places and historical periods.


  • Joshua J. Yates (Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, University of Virginia)
  • George Thomas (School of Politics and Global Studies, Arizona State University)

Participating Scholars

  • Charles Mathewes (Comparative Religious Ethics, UVa)
  • Jennifer Geddes (Evil and Holocaust Studies, UVa)
  • Chad Wellmon (German Studies, UVa)
  • Neslihan Cevik (Sociology of Religion and Islam, UVa)
  • John Nemec (Religious Studies, Sanskrit, Indian Philosophy, UVa)
  • Slavica Jakelić (Sociology and Religious Studies, UVa)
  • Christina Simko (Cultural Sociology, UVa)
  • Steve West (Chinese Literature and History, ASU)
  • Daniel Doneson (Political Studies, UVa)
  • Krishan Kumar (Historical and Political Sociology, Nations and Nationalism, UVa)
  • Markus Cruse (French Literature, ASU)
  • Thomas Puelo (Geography and Global Studies, ASU)

For more information, please contact Joshua Yates.

Who We Are

The Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture is an interdisciplinary research center and intellectual community at the University of Virginia committed to understanding contemporary cultural change and its individual and social consequences, training young scholars, and providing intellectual leadership in service to the public good.

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