“Rethinking Community Resilience: The Politics of Disaster Recovery in New Orleans” by Min See Go— Civil Activism and Disaster

Go, Min Hee. “Rethinking Community Resilience: The Politics of Disaster Recovery in New Orleans”, NYU Press, 2021.

Civil Activism after Disaster

Amos Lassen

It is pure and ominous coincidence that “Rethinking Community Resistance” arrived in my mailbox the day before the 16thanniversary on Hurricane Katrina and when New Orleans was once again waiting for a disaster. I was there during Katrina and evacuated four days after the storm hit and did not return until eight years later and then just for a visit. I heard stories about what was going on but I was now living my life in first, Little Rock and then Boston.

After Hurricane Katrina, thousands of people swiftly mobilized to rebuild their neighborhoods. They were often assisted by government organizations, nonprofits, and other major institutions. In “Rethinking Community Resilience”, writer Min Hee Go shows that these recovery efforts are not always the answers they seemed to be, and that they actually escalated the city’s susceptibility to future environmental hazards. 

Through interviews, public records, and more, Go examines the hidden costs of community resilience. We see that despite good intentions, recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina furthered existing race and class inequalities and put disadvantaged communities at risk. Further, we see that when governments, nonprofits, and communities invest in rebuilding rather than relocating, they  lay the groundwork for vulnerabilities. Here are the challenges communities face in the world of today.

Resident action alone could not overcome the structural racism that led to unequal disaster effects and inequitable recoveries and neighborhood scale successes led to exclusionary redevelopment and reduced resilience in other ways. The relationships between neighborhoods and local public action are more relevant than ever for “researchers, planners, policymakers alike who are investigating neighborhood change and facing disaster recovery and climate adaptation.”

Well-intentioned community-led recovery efforts in post-Katrina New Orleans were often incomplete and haphazard making the city susceptible to future risk. The romanticized notion that civic action can uniformly fill the void created by incompetent or weakened government and enable residents to overcome crises and create more resilient communities is tossed aside here.


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