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The Neoliberal Deluge

Hurricane Katrina, Late Capitalism, and the Remaking of New Orleans

2011

Cedric Johnson, editor

The Neoliberal Deluge

A critical collection on the politics of disaster and reconstruction in New Orleans

The Neoliberal Deluge locates the root causes of the disaster of Katrina squarely in neoliberal restructuring and examines how pro-market reforms are reshaping life, politics, economy, and the built environment in New Orleans. The contributors argue that human agency and public policy choices were more at fault for the destruction and social misery experienced than were sheer forces of nature.

This is a very important volume that all people interested in the Katrina disaster, governance, and American politics should read. In this book, Cedric Johnson and the other contributors reframe our understanding of the disaster by highlighting the role of neoliberalism in shaping both the preconditions for and response to this crisis. Those who read this book will come away with deeper knowledge of the meaning and work of neoliberalism over the last quarter century.

Cathy Cohen, University of Chicago

Katrina was not just a hurricane. The death, destruction, and misery wreaked on New Orleans cannot be blamed on nature’s fury alone. This volume of essays locates the root causes of the 2005 disaster squarely in neoliberal restructuring and examines how pro-market reforms are reshaping life, politics, economy, and the built environment in New Orleans.

The authors—a diverse group writing from the disciplines of sociology, political science, education, public policy, and media theory—argue that human agency and public policy choices were more at fault for the devastation and mass suffering experienced along the Gulf Coast than were sheer forces of nature. The harrowing images of flattened homes, citizens stranded on rooftops, patients dying in makeshift hospitals, and dead bodies floating in floodwaters exposed the moral and political contradictions of neoliberalism—the ideological rejection of the planner state and the active promotion of a new order of market rule.

Many of these essays offer critical insights on the saga of postdisaster reconstruction. Challenging triumphal narratives of civic resiliency and universal recovery, the authors bring to the fore pitched battles over labor rights, gender and racial justice, gentrification, the development of city master plans, the demolition of public housing, policing, the privatization of public schools, and roiling tensions between tourism-based economic growth and neighborhood interests. The contributors also expand and deepen more conventional critiques of “disaster capitalism” to consider how the corporate mobilization of philanthropy and public good will are remaking New Orleans in profound and pernicious ways.

Contributors: Barbara L. Allen, Virginia Polytechnic U; John Arena, CUNY College of Staten Island; Adrienne Dixson, Ohio State U; Eric Ishiwata, Colorado State U; Avis Jones-Deweever, National Council of Negro Women; Chad Lavin, Virginia Polytechnic U; Paul Passavant, Hobart and William Smith Colleges; Linda Robertson, Hobart and William Smith Colleges; Chris Russill, Carleton U; Kanchana Ruwanpura, U of Southampton; Nicole Trujillo-Pagán, Wayne State U; Geoffrey Whitehall, Acadia U.

The Neoliberal Deluge

Cedric Johnson is associate professor of African American studies and political science at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is the author of Revolutionaries to Race Leaders: Black Power and the Making of African American Politics (Minnesota, 2007).

The Neoliberal Deluge

This is a very important volume that all people interested in the Katrina disaster, governance, and American politics should read. In this book, Cedric Johnson and the other contributors reframe our understanding of the disaster by highlighting the role of neoliberalism in shaping both the preconditions for and response to this crisis. Those who read this book will come away with deeper knowledge of the meaning and work of neoliberalism over the last quarter century.

Cathy Cohen, University of Chicago

This book is consistently excellent and sets new standards for post-Katrina scholarship. It is indispensable.

Journal of American Studies

If ... you have a keen interest in the socio-political examination of our fair city’s recovery process, Deluge should be on your list.

Room 220

A thought-provoking collection of essays ... This book provides an insightful critique of neoliberalism.

Choice

At least eight academic disciplines are represented over 12 chapters, and many of the authors hail from interdisciplinary programs (e.g. science and technology studies, media studies, African American studies). Seeing Katrina’s devastation through such varied frames is perhaps the only way to appreciate its impact.

Margaret E. Farrar, Perspectives on Politics

Together, the essays in The Neoliberal Deluge provide readers with a thorough understanding of the definition of neoliberalism and neoliberal policies.

Jessica L. Troustine, Perspectives on Politics

Not only can The Neoliberal Deluge trace the structured and structuring political and economic practices and processes that have brutally scarred the urban landscape of New Orleans, but it also scrupulously follows the ongoing struggles and marginalized lives of people who confronted the natural and social disasters of Katrina and who are now faced with living with its wounds and injuries.

Martin F. Manalansan IV, Perspectives on Politics

The book will serve as a useful tool for those interested in New Orleans and will remind all of us that our anger at the racial and class injustice exposed by Katrina was not misplaced.

Aaron Schneider, Perspectives on Politics

A challenging volume with an ambitious twofold agenda. On the one hand, it seeks to document the specific ways in which neoliberal ideology has impacted New Orleans. . . On the other hand, the volume is a critique of neoliberal ideology itself, intended to illustrate its deleterious and profoundly antidemocratic consequences.

Thad Williamson, Perspectives on Politics

Johnson’s collection will interest historians of Hurricane Katrina with its close problematizing of post-storm responses, ranging from a philanthropic live-work compound for relocated storm survivors to the nation’s most extensive charter school experiment. The Neoliberal Deluge is an original and important addition to the growing body of scholarly work on the human-made disaster that accompanied the natural disaster of Katrina.

The Journal of American History

Through this edited volume, Cedric Johnson examines disaster as one of the unintended consequences of neoliberalism. This is a refreshing remixing of ideas, which include but move beyond the well travelled analyses of the disaster as structural racism, competition in an urban growth machine, ‘state’ failure and official incompetence.

Ethnic and Racial Studies

The Neoliberal Deluge

Contents

Preface: “Obama’s Katrina”
Cedric Johnson

Introduction: The Neoliberal Deluge
Cedric Johnson

Part I. Governance
1. From Tipping Point to Metacrises: Management, Media, and Hurricane Katrina Chris Russill and Chad Lavin

2. “We Are Seeing People We Didn’t Know Exist”: Katrina and the Neoliberal Erasure of Race
Eric Ishiwata

3. Making Citizens in Magnaville: Katrina Refugees and Neoliberal Self-Governance
Geoffrey Whitehall and Cedric Johnson

Part II. Urbanity
4. Mega-events, the Superdome, and the Return of the Repressed in New Orleans
Paul Passavant

5. Whose Choice? A Critical Race Perspective on Charter Schools
Adrienne Dixson

6. Black and White, Unite and Fight? Identity Politics and New Orleans’s Post-Katrina Public Housing Movement
John Arena

Part III. Planning
7. Charming Accommodations: Progressive Urbanism Meets Privatization in Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation
Cedric Johnson

8. Laboratorization and the “Green” Rebuilding of New Orleans’s Lower Ninth Ward
Barbara L. Allen

9. Squandered Resources? Grounded Realities of Recovery in Post-Tsunami Sri Lanka
Kanchana Ruwanpura

Part IV. Inequality
10. How Shall We Remember New Orleans? Comparing News Coverage of Post- Katrina New Orleans and the 2008 Midwest Floods
Linda Robertson

11. The Forgotten Ones: Black Women in the Wake of Katrina
Avis Jones-Deweever

12. Hazardous Constructions: Mexican Immigrant Masculinity and the Rebuilding of New Orleans
Nicole Trujillo-Pagán

Contributors
Index