Domenico Cecere and Milena Viceconte were interviewed by Eduardo Angel Cruz for New Books Networks, a network that reaches thousands of undergraduate and PhD students in American and Hispanic universities.
In presenting the book Heroes in Dark Times: Saints and Officials Tackling Disaster (16th-17th Centuries), the two members of the DisComPoSE group – who edited the volume together with Gennaro Schiano – focused on the characteristics and motivations of the rescue actions put in place to cope with the emergency during the natural disasters that occurred in the domains of the Hispanic monarchy in the early modern age.
In the accounts of the catastrophes that circulated inside and outside the empire immediately after the events, it seems that the heroic figures were replaced by the anthropomorphic fury of the natural elements. However, sometimes in these texts the decisive intervention of saints or local institutions emerges: the former were invoked to mediate with heaven to appease the divine wrath through miracles, and the latter to manage the catastrophe and provide help and relief.
The 14 essays in the book are aimed at reflecting on these rescue actions, especially when they take on the character of heroic gestures suspended between reality and fiction, human and divine, ordinary and extraordinary.
The authors investigated how and why a particular individual or action presented itself or recognized itself as an effective defence against a far-reaching threat from the natural environment.
Cecere and Viceconte have highlighted how the growing rivalry between the different social forces in showing their interest in the salvation of the people impacted on the ways of narrating disaster.
According to the hypothesis that emerges strongly from many essays, the societies of the old regime, as today, catastrophe can open up an unprecedented space for action where it becomes possible to transform the political and social balances. This would explain the strong interest of political actors in intervening in post-disaster situations.

Listen to the interview

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