Disasters loom large in the contemporary. In films and front-page news, images of societies splintering apart proliferate. Surely one of the most remarkable things about social life in the present is the ease with which we can conjure up its spectacular destruction. The point of this seminar is to take disaster seriously. We will do this both by reviewing historical and ethnographic accounts of actual events of profound disruption and by reflecting on how knowledge of disaster moves through pubic policy, critical theory, and big-budget entertainment. Taking a close look at the Dust Bowl, nuclear weapon tests, DDT, Chernobyl, Hurricane Katrina, the BP Oil Spill, Fukushima, and global climate change, we will learn about the technical, ecological, and social dimensions of real disasters. Taking a step back, we will follow images and ideas of disaster as they emerge from such events and move into problems of governance, questions of power, and popular representations of the very fragility of social life. Most readings will be in anthropology with a few fieldtrips into environmental history and science and technology studies.