August, 2007

Community Resilience in New Orleans East

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Following the devastation of the 2005 hurricane season, it was unclear whether many of the affected communities would rebound. But within weeks of the storm, the neighborhood surrounding the Mary Queen of Vietnam Catholic Church was showing clear signs of recovery, setting a pace that would continue until almost all the residents and businesses had returned by the summer of 2007. The question of how this postdisaster success was won is the subject of the present analysis. The argument made here builds off of Swidler’s (1986) concept of the “cultural toolkit.” This community was able to make use of an array of cultural tools that aided their swift return. In particular, historical narratives common to members of this community and the appropriation of the “model minority” myth served as effective tools in the rebuilding process. This working paper offers a practical answer to the question of what gives some communities the ability to rebound in the wake of disaster.

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.