Heat Wave: a Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago Essay

1734 Words Dec 8th, 2005 7 Pages
Eric Klinenberg, assistant professor of sociology at New York University (formally of Northwestern University), wrote "Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago" in order to further investigate the devastating Chicago heat wave of 1995. From July 13h to July 20th, the heat led to over 700 deaths and thousands being hospitalized due to heat related illness. Following the catastrophe, there have been numerous medical, meteorological, and epidemiological studies done examining the reasons for the historic mortality rate, but none seemed to focus on the on underlying issues such as social etiology. In "Heat Wave", Klinenberg, a Chicago native, takes his fascination with the social possibilities surrounding the event to greater depths. …show more content…
I also saw the lack of social support from friends or family take its toll on these individuals. Klinenberg's coverage of these examples and many more allowed me to better link the book with this course, as well as declare "Heat Wave" a success.
Lee Clarke of Rutgers University published his review, "Using Disaster to See Society," in the March 2003 issue of Contemporary Sociology. This review begins by stating the facts and statistics surrounding the heat wave, and agrees with Klinenberg's key ideas. It goes on to point out the effects of removing oneself from social networks due to dangerous neighborhoods and poverty, of the media hiding the painful truth from the public, and of the neglectful government basically letting people die. Clarke states clearly, "The best part of Heat Wave is Klinenberg's treatment of the media. It was their framing, Klinenberg shows, that shaped the disaster so that its magnitude was missed." (Clarke, pg138)
He next addresses the major themes of "Heat Wave", the first being the heat wave itself. Yet here, Clarke says that Klinenberg "overplayed" the idea that in the past heat waves have been neglected because images of earthquakes and hurricanes were more dramatic, and because heat waves kill the forgotten people. Clarke believes that the other disasters do cause major physical and social destruction, and both were not present in the Chicago heat wave. The next

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