Consuming Catastrophe

Mass Culture in America's Decade of Disaster

Timothy Recuber
Sociology of Emotions Section award for Recent Contribution Award, 2018
Book Cover

PB: $28.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1370-3
Publication: Oct 16

HC: $89.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-1369-7
Publication: Oct 16

Ebook: $28.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1371-0
Publication: Nov 16


Examines the media’s coverage of four American disasters, arguing that media attention directs our concern for the suffering of others toward efforts to soothe our own emotional turmoil

Read the Introduction (pdf).


Horrified, saddened, and angered: That was the American people’s reaction to the 9/11 attacks, Hurricane Katrina, the Virginia Tech shootings, and the 2008 financial crisis. In Consuming Catastrophe, Timothy Recuber presents a unique and provocative look at how these four very different disasters took a similar path through public consciousness. He explores the myriad ways we engage with and negotiate our feelings about disasters and tragedies—from omnipresent media broadcasts to relief fund efforts and promises to “Never Forget.” Recuber explains how a specific and “real” kind of emotional connection to the victims becomes a crucial element in the creation, use, and consumption of mass mediation of disasters. He links this to the concept of “empathetic hedonism,” or the desire to understand or feel the suffering of others. The ineffability of disasters makes them a spectacular and emotional force in contemporary American culture. Consuming Catastrophe provides a lively analysis of the themes and meanings of tragedy and the emotions it engenders in the representation, mediation and consumption of disasters.

Table of Contents

AcknowledgmentsIntroduction: A Decade of Disaster1. A History of Catastrophe: Media, Mass Culture, and Authenticity2. The Limits of Empathy: Hurricane Katrina and the Virginia Tech Shootings3. The Authenticity of Fear: September 11 and the Financial Crisis4. Memory as Therapy: September 11, Hurricane Katrina, and Online CommemorationConclusion: The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Disasters Still to ComeReferencesIndex