Essay Heat Wave: a Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago

1739 Words Nov 19th, 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…
Here, the key health and support services of the governmental organization, the police and fire departments, include officers who are rarely committed to "soft service" work. And lastly, in chapter 5 "The Spectacular City," Klinenberg speaks about media's involvement during that time. He investigates and interviews journalists, editors, and news companies, discussing the angles at which the disaster was portrayed and why this may be. More importantly, this chapter focuses on the cultural "reframing" of the actually news and information of the heat wave. He says that Chicago used its public relations tools to deny there was a disaster and then to claim it was a natural and unpreventable one. They defended the government's role while masking the social roots of the high mortality rates during the heat wave. I originally chose this book because the brief summary given to us in class had caused me to become more interested Klinenberg's findings throughout his extensive research. This book proved to correlate directly with many of the ideas we discussed in class. Through this close examination of being a certain age (elderly), of being part of a certain race/ethnicity, and of being part of a certain social class (poor), I was able to see the web of causation in action as it applied to Chicago's heat wave. I especially applied the ideas in Chapter 5 "Social Organization, Health, and Illness" of our text to
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