October, 2008

There’s No Place Like New Orleans: Sense of Place and Community Recovery in the Ninth Ward After Hurricane Katrina

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This study contributes to the literature on the strength of place attachment, identity and dependence in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.  It also engages the literature concerning the role of sense of place in community engagement and the disruption in place attachment, identity and dependence that natural disasters can cause. 

By drawing on interview data collected from residents who returned to New Orleans after the storm and from former New Orleanians who evacuated to Houston but did not return, this paper investigates the “sense of place” that residents in Ninth Ward New Orleans neighborhoods identify in their narratives about their pre- and post-Hurricane Katrina experiences.

The data considered here suggests that returning residents believe that New Orleans in general (and their Ninth Ward neighborhoods in particular) possess a unique bundle of characteristics that, when taken together, cannot be found or replicated elsewhere.  While sense of place is an important motivator for returning residents, the data also suggest that complementary factors must be in place if the full potential of this social resource is to be realized.

Due to journal submission requirements, we are unable to include this piece in Mercatus' working paper series at this time. Please email Daniel Rothschild (drothsch@gmu.edu) to request a copy.