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

Seumas Bates

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.”

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Forgetting Flooding? : Post-disaster Livelihood and Embedded Remembrance in Suburban Santa Fe, Argentina

Susann Baez Ullberg

Abstract

Flooding has long been a recurrent problem in the Argentinian city of Santa Fe, mainly affecting the poverty-stricken suburban outskirts. In 2003 one of the worst floods ever occurred, which also affected residents in the middle income sectors who had never been flooded before and who reacted with an extraordinary process of commemoration and protest against the government for its lax disaster management. Paradoxically, most other past disastrous floods in the city’s history seem to dwell in the shadows of social oblivion. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in the years 2004–2011, this article analyzes how local flood memories are made through daily life practices and places in the suburban outskirts, more than through public commemorations, which has implications for vulnerability and risk.

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Introduction: Perspectives on the (Re-)Production of Knowledge

Hannah Swee and Zuzana Hrdličková

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Post-disaster Field Trips: Building Expert Knowledge through Itineraries, Memory Sticks, and Cameras

Zuzana Hrdličková

Abstract

Field trips play a significant role in the building of expert knowledge of numerous institutions. So why is their nature and significance for knowledge production rarely discussed in the anthropology of expertise? In this paper, I draw on the particular instance of an expert field trip undertaken by a disaster management organization in the Indian state of Odisha in the aftermath of Cyclone Phailin in 2013. I show that field trips are contingent practices defined by their sequential logic, relationships, interests, and by the personal perceptions of people who undertake them. The choice of personnel to carry out this field exercise is fundamental and depends on institutional views of aims and understandings of what constitutes expertise. In line with E. Summerson Carr’s argument that expertise is something people “do” rather than “hold”, I show that enacting expert status serves to assert power and to enable its holder to achieve their aims.

Open access

A Crystal Ball for Forests?

Analyzing the Social-Ecological Impacts of Forest Conservation and Management over the Long Term

Daniel C. Miller, Pushpendra Rana, and Catherine Benson Wahlén

ABSTRACT

Citizens, governments, and donors are increasingly demanding better evidence on the effectiveness of development policies and programs. Efforts to ensure such accountability in the forest sector confront the challenge that the results may take years, even decades, to materialize, while forest-related interventions usually last only a short period. This article reviews the broad interdisciplinary literature assessing forest conservation and management impacts on biodiversity conservation, climate change mitigation, and poverty alleviation in developing countries. It emphasizes the importance of indicators and identifies disconnects between a rapidly growing body of research based on quasi-experimental designs and studies taking a more critical, ethnographic approach. The article also highlights a relative lack of attention on longer-term impacts in both of these areas of scholarship. We conclude by exploring research frontiers in the assessment of the impacts of forest-related interventions with long incubation periods, notably the development of predictive proxy indicators (PPIs).

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Systematic Review of Recent Social Indicator Efforts in US Coastal and Ocean Ecosystems (2000–2016)

Victoria C. Ramenzoni and David Yoskowitz

ABSTRACT

After Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina, governmental organizations have placed the development of metrics to quantify social impacts, resilience, and community adaptation at the center of their agendas. Following the premise that social indicators provide valuable information to help decision makers address complex interactions between people and the environment, several interagency groups in the United States have undertaken the task of embedding social metrics into policy and management. While this task has illuminated important opportunities for consolidating social and behavioral disciplines at the core of the federal government, there are still significant risks and challenges as quantification approaches move forward. In this article, we discuss the major rationale underpinning these efforts, as well as the limitations and conflicts encountered in transitioning research to policy and application. We draw from a comprehensive literature review to explore major initiatives in institutional scenarios addressing community well-being, vulnerability, and resilience in coastal and ocean resource management agencies.

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Climate Cosmopolitics and the Possibilities for Urban Planning

Donna Houston, Diana McCallum, Wendy Steele, and Jason Byrne

ABSTRACT

Cosmopolitical action in a climate-changed city represents different knowledges and practices that may seem disconnected but constellate to frame stories and spaces of a climate-just city. The question this article asks is: how might we as planners identify and develop counter-hegemonic praxes that enable us to re-imagine our experience of, and responses to, climate change? To explore this question, we draw on Isabelle Stengers’s (2010) idea of cosmopolitics—where diverse stories, perspectives, experiences, and practices can connect to create the foundation for new strategic possibilities. Our article is empirically informed by conversations with actors from three Australian cities (Sydney, Brisbane, and Perth) who are mobilizing different approaches to this ideal in various grassroots actions on climate change.

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Community-Based Auditing: A Post-Normal Science Methodology

Phil Tattersall

ABSTRACT

Conflict over natural resource usage has been ongoing in Tasmania for many years. There continues to be considerable community concern, disquiet and conflict over forestry management practices. In an analysis of his numerous community support projects the author saw an opportunity to involve community members in decisions relating to natural resource management. An interest in action research led him to propose a form of activism based on the ideas of post-normal science (PNS). The idea of the extended peer review aspect of post-normal science has been used in the development of a participative inquiry methodology known as community-based auditing (CBA). The contributions to theory and practice of PNS and environmental activism are thought to be significant. Several cases are briefly discussed.

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The Governance of the Nature-Culture Nexus: Lessons Learned from the San Pedro de Atacama Case Study

Constanza Parra and Frank Moulaert

ABSTRACT

Focusing on the governance of San Pedro de Atacama, a desert region located in the north of Chile, this article discusses the concern in ecology and social science to restore the unity between nature and culture as a lever to governance in social-ecological systems. It examines contemporary governance dynamics of this large desert and mountain area by means of a theoretical framework combining contributions from three fields: socio-ecological systems, political ecology, and diversity approaches in anthropology and cultural studies. It reveals the multi-scalar, multicultural complexity of these dynamics involving local communities, the mining industries, nature protection agencies, environmental movements as well as protagonists of neoliberal economic policy. It concludes that in San Pedro de Atacama hybrid governance institutions have emerged that offer real yet fragile development opportunities for the native population.

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Socialities of Nature Beyond Utopia

Constanza Parra and Casey Walsh

ABSTRACT

The articles in this section were written by social scientists from different parts of the world doing research on the complex relationship between human beings and the natural environment, and on the role of cultural ideals in shaping environmental history. The interdisciplinary character of the papers generates original insights about the socio-cultural dimensions of the environmental problematic, which have been neglected when compared with economic and political dimensions. This introduction reviews the contents of the proposed special symposium and situates the articles in relation to discussions about the social role of utopias, imagined and real.