Neither floods nor plagues, famines nor cataclysms, nor even
the eternal wars of century upon century, have been able to
subdue the per sistent advantage of life over death.
gabriel garcía márquez, “the solitude of latin
ame rica” (nobel lecture), december 1982
Hurricane Katrina, 9/11, the Indian Ocean tsunami, another off the coast of
Japan and the subsequent Fukushima nuclear disaster, earthquakes in China
and Chile and Nepal, Superstorm Sandy, Ebola: such catastrophic events,
varying in cause, scale, and duration, have contributed to a mounting sense
that we now live in a world- historical era of uncertainty and insecurity. Po-
liti cal leaders, media pundits, urban planners, environmental activists, se-
curity officials, and health experts all seem to agree that catastrophes and
crises are globally on the rise.1 Social theorists have often seen these develop-
ments as signs of a momentous shift within (or even beyond) modernity: the
increase in magnitude and frequency of threats has outrun economic and
technological pro gress and our collective capacity to manage risk. Whether
or not they are right in heralding an epochal break on a worldwide scale,
their accounts reflect what has become a pervasive view of global transfor-
mation. Attending the belief that we have entered a time of singular precar-
ity comes a new po litical imperative: to govern the pres ent in anticipation
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