Location of experience:
Caribbean and Central America; North America; Pacific
Type of disaster work:
Community; Disaster recovery; Sustainability, resilience, and mitigation
Disaster recovery; Disaster risk reduction; Social vulnerability; Livelihoods; Health; History
My post-Katrina work asked how large African American families, common to the impacted area, cope with profound, collective loss. The work thrust me into the lives of dozens of family members whose losses became secondary over time to the trauma of not being understood and losing their sense of potency. The outside institutions, aid workers, NGOs, subcontractors hired by FEMA, and even faith-based groups that came to help tended to bring their own assumptions about what families look like and what they need. These organizational norms were mismatched to local needs and caused mental and emotional suffering, and often led to physical decline of family members. The 9-year ordeal transformed me into a public anthropologist, eager to speak out for those without a voice. It is exciting to connect my experience to CADAN’s crack team of researchers and practitioners. This is a group with a collective wisdom about the relevance of culture in all kinds of disaster contexts. It’s a group bent on working together to make change that will reduce post-disaster suffering and speed recovery.