December, 2014

Commercial Relationships and Spaces after Disaster

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Sociological research on the relationship between social bonds and economic activity typically focuses on how social bonds facilitate economic activity. There is, however, a growing and important literature on the development of commercial relationships into social friendships and the important role that commercial spaces can play in facilitating social connections. To date, however, this research has not focused on the important role that these commercial friendships and spaces can play in facilitating an individual’s recovery efforts after a major disaster like a tornado, hurricane or flood. It has also not focused on the effect that major disasters can have on commercial ties. Moreover, while the sociological literature on post-disaster recovery has emphasized the important role of social capital, it has not emphasized the role that social networks developed within commercial contexts can play in helping individuals to rebound from disaster. This article is an effort to fill these gaps in the literature. Using interview data collected in the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina, we argue and describe how meaningful social bonds that emerge out of and are facilitated by commercial activity as well as the social spaces provided by commercial entities can facilitate community rebound after a major disaster.