Master of Arts (MA)


Geography and Anthropology

Document Type



After Hurricane Katrina of 2005, New Orleans’s Lower Ninth Ward became an icon for the failure of recovery efforts and the persistence of inequality and poverty in American society. However, for as long as this community has been marginalized it has been creating advocacy organizations and counter-narratives that battled discrimination and imbued its cultural practices with meaning. Residents often speak of a profound sense of community attachment, a commitment to educational prospects, and a deep historic and cultural identity. Historically, this area has been home to various social and legal campaigns, mirroring the contemporary protests that arose when residents encountered unwillingness on behalf of officials to rebuild their community. One of the most recent manifestations of this activism is the community’s campaign to re-open the Dr. Martin Luther King Charter School (MLK) after Hurricane Katrina. Although the media has devoted considerable attention to the re-opening of MLK, thus far little scholarly research has focused on how this campaign intersects broader historical trends and how it reflects and reinforces place attachment among residents. From the early creation of social aid and pleasure clubs to the later movements to desegregate the school system and to halt the expansion of the Industrial Canal lock within the community, the school re-opening campaign emerges as the latest effort in a long history of activism and refusal to concede to outside forces. Using the fight to re-open their community school as a contemporary context, I seek to examine connections between a historical culture of resistance and community resilience, often facilitated by a reservoir of powerful social memories, and residents’ attachment to their landscape. This study is grounded in critical race theory, social memory studies, and resistance theory. I employ a mixed methods approach that consisted of formal interviews, archival research, and participant observation. By taking an historical perspective of this community’s resistance, we can create an alternative narrative to post-Katrina discourses that present residents solely in terms of victimization.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Colten, Craig E.