A disaster on top of a disaster : how gender, race, and class shaped the housing experiences of displaced Hurricane Katrina survivors
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In this dissertation project, I examine the experiences of displaced Hurricane Katrina survivors in the context of post-disaster housing policies and practices. This research is based on two years of in-depth interviews with Katrina survivors who were displaced to Austin, Texas. I analyze these interviews to understand the raced, classed, and gendered implications of post-disaster housing policies and to consider what these implications reveal about the relationship between social policies, housing, and social inequality more broadly. This project is informed by an intersectional understanding of social stratification systems and inequalities and a critical analysis of neoliberal social policy. First, I outline the gender, family, and class ideologies embedded in government-run post-Katrina housing policies and practices, and show how they specifically disadvantaged people who did not conform to them. I identify temporal domination as a specific aspect of class oppression evident in respondents’ experiences with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) rental assistance programs. Next, I specifically examine respondents’ experiences settling into their new neighborhoods and searching for jobs. I found that many black survivors ended up in segregated remote areas of the city, far from jobs and public transportation. Their job searching experiences suggest that employers used racist stereotypes about Latino workers to coerce them to work for low wages. This reveals the complex and interrelated racial dynamics of low-wage urban housing and labor markets. Finally, I explore how survivors got by in the face of such difficult and in some cases dire circumstances. One primary way survivors coped with the uncertainty caused by their displacement was relying on their social networks. While women tended to depend on adult child - parent and other familial relationships, men tended to distance themselves from the potential support of their mothers and other relatives. Respondents also constructed fictive kin relationships to provide support to others, sometimes for the explicit purpose of ensuring one or both members of the relationship had access to stable housing. This reveals how both gender and family relationships can shape disaster recovery and everyday experiences of poverty. Overall, this project contributes to the study of race/class/gender inequality, social policy, housing, and disaster recovery.