The Predicament of Privilege: On the Affective Structures of Disaster Management – University of Copenhagen

The Predicament of Privilege: On the Affective Structures of Disaster Management

Affective Disaster


The way we respond to disaster is structured not only by the economic, material, and social infrastructure of society, but also by its affective infrastructure.

The way we feel and wish to feel, the affective atmospheres governing our interests, our diverse emotional investments in the surroundings – in short, the ways in which disaster moves us or fails to do so.

How do we experience disasters that are not our own? In this seminar the aim will be to identify a certain ‘structure of feeling’ central to the Western cultural imagination of disaster. This structure of feeling is by Devika Sharma termed ‘the predicament of privilege’, because, while conditioning the understanding of and response to disaster, it is always also an articulation of our self-image as globally privileged populations.

The seminar will draw on recent discussions within disciplines of cultural theory, moral anthropology, and media studies.


Devika Sharma, University of Copenhagen

Devika Sharma is Ass. Prof. of Modern Culture at the University of Copenhagen. She holds a PhD and a MA in Modern Culture from the University of Copenhagen, and a MA in Humanities and Social Thought from New York University.
Her current research examines contemporary discourses of aid and humanitarianism, and she is working on a book on images of Africa and late-modern Western culture of feeling. Her PhD focused on the prison motif in contemporary American literary fiction, art, and visual culture relating the cultural imagination of the prison to the recent developments of the American penal system.