June, 2011

Social Capital as Collective Narratives and Post-Disaster Community Recovery

This paper examines how social capital aids in post-disaster community recovery and redevelopment. While previous studies on social capital and post-disaster recovery have tended to focus on social networks as a source of necessary assistance, the primary focus of this study is on how social capital in the form of collective narratives affects post-disaster recovery. We argue that collective narratives can shape the recovery strategies that individuals adopt. To illustrate this we examine the post-Katrina recovery efforts in St. Bernard Parish, an area devastated by flooding and significant environmental damage. In particular, we focus on the shared narrative that dominated qualitative interview data collected in St. Bernard, namely, its shared identity as a close-knit, family-oriented community comprised of hard workers. This narrative led community members to adopt a strategy that emphasized self-reliance.

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