As more and more images of the pandemic’s disastrous effects surface, we are reminded of Maurice Blanchot’s dictum: “The disaster ruins everything, all the while leaving everything intact.”

For all that the disastrous event dissolves, it also reveals the essence of how things operate. Disaster is always in the singular, whether collective, like war, or the current pandemic, or individual, like a personal illness or abuse. To experience disaster is often to reconfigure one’s experience of time, place, and being in a body. The rules of normality are suspended even as new norms begin to settle.

In the uncertain, scary, exhausting, worrisome, and strange times and places that disaster takes us, how can we reflect?

Can we ever write from disaster, or are we fated to write either from the edge or the aftermath?

In this special issue of Tendon, we invite creative as well as critical reflections, and prose, poetry, visual arts or mixed media, on the theme of disaster. Some questions to consider are:

  • Is the disaster an event or a continuum?
  • What (and whom) does the disaster create, conceal, or connect?
  • What pressure does disaster exert on language in the expression of one’s experience, or in a particular ethnographic or historical case?
  • How universal is the idea of disaster?
  • Is disaster always followed by resilience, repair, or remaking?
  • What does the catalyst of disaster do to and for our bodies, collectives, institutions, and social bonds?
  • How can we reimagine science, care, and data production after the current disaster?
  • What kind of “writing” does the disaster dictate?