“Before the Storm”: Hurricane Katrina, the BP Oil Spill, and the Challenges to Racial Hierarchies in Rural Louisiana

in Nature and Culture
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  • 1 University of Glasgow seumas.bates@gmail.com
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Abstract

By conceptualizing the recovery from Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill as forming part of ongoing processes of “becoming” and the everyday, this article explores how the relative power of a historically privileged group of White males in rural Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, faced significant challenge. First, through the breakdown of informal racial segregation in local social institutions, and through the newly ubiquitous nature of mobile homes threatening their rejection of “trailer trash” culture. Second, however, this impact must be understood within ongoing changes across wider American society, where a locally valorized ideal of normative 1950s culture was seen to be in conflict with the civil rights and feminist movements of the late twentieth century. This imagined cultural hegemony was therefore in serious decline long before these catastrophes, yet has now been confined to the time “before the Storm.”

Contributor Notes

Seumas Bates has a PhD in social anthropology from the University of Glasgow. His PhD research was on the cultural recovery from two major catastrophes (Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill) in a context where smaller disasters were somewhat normalized. He has presented papers at EASA, IUAES, and the RAI, and currently co-convenes the international Disaster and Crisis Anthropology Network of the European Association of Social Anthropologists. Address: Department of Sociology, Adam Smith Building, University of Glasgow G12 8QQ, United Kingdom.

E-mail: seumas.bates@gmail.com

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