Hurricane Sandy at 10, Katrina at 20: How do we study recovery over decades?
As I was wrapping up my book on long-term recovery after Hurricane Sandy, due this fall from Lexington Press, I realized that we are fast approaching the 20th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
Decadal milestones are important in the study of long-term recovery because they provide opportunities for assessment and stock taking. While recovery may look complete there are often “hidden pockets” of people and neighborhoods who are still struggling to complete the rebuilding process and individuals and communities that may still be financially, medically, emotionally, and psychologically impacted by the disaster or catastrophe. What we may also miss by turning away at 2-year or 5-year milestones are those continued and accelerated political, social, and demographic trends that reshape whole communities, such as those analyzed by Andy Horowitz in New Orleans and the nearby Parishes in his masterful 100-year history of Katrina and its impacts. We see similar reshaping and transformation in coastal New Jersey as long-time working and middle class communities become enclaves of the wealthy and the supply of naturally occurring affordable housing rapidly diminishes.
Sustained research on long-term recovery after disaster is difficult given funding exigencies and academic tenure and promotion timelines. Yet it is vitally important that scholars and practitioners don’t look away and that we find ways to continue to study the long-term aftereffects of catastrophe and disaster, even as media and government attention has moved on to other problems and other disasters.
Are there scholars still working on post-Katrina New Orleans through analysis of its recovery and transformation over the last 15-20 years? I’d love to connect.
Now may be the time to revisit the excellent scholarship on post-disaster recovery conducted after Katrina and to do a retrospective assessment of 20-years of long-term recovery in New Orleans. Let’s talk.
Jack L. Harris. Author of Hyperlocal Organizing: Collaborating for Recovery over Time (Forthcoming Fall 2022, Lexington Press)
Visiting Assistant Professor of Communication
Internship Program Director, Department of Communication
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.