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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The new Louisiana purchase : gentrification and disaster in the heart of New Orleans Stone, Jeremy Thomas


This dissertation examines the conceptual and experiential relationships between gentrification and disaster. It is argued here that gentrification is a cascading hazard from disasters. Massive disruptions to the physical and social terrains of cities trigger recoveries that may not protect the tenure security, livelihoods, and cultures of low-income residents. In turn gentrification can take place, which carries the same characteristics of disorder, displacement, and trauma that conventional disasters produce. Recovery planners and urban planners are implicated in these outcomes as they forego opportunities to mitigate the consequences of recoveries, or actively use recoveries to restructure low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. Collaborating with community partners in the Central City neighborhood of New Orleans, I interviewed traditional residents, new residents, culture bearers, business owners, and government/institutional workers to explore themes of gentrification and disaster. I examine the recovery strategies of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, tracing gaps in recovery planning that accelerated gentrification. I also explore how conventional housing displacement unfolded, and the impressions of traditional and new residents on gentrification in the neighborhood. In subsequent sections, I investigate livelihood and cultural gentrification in Central City, using retail gentrification, streetscape improvements, and policing or theft of cultural practices as lenses into the disruption and trauma of gentrification. Coming from an activist planning orientation, I focus on neighborhood strategies of resistance and reclamation of the neighborhood commons through discursive and physical acts of “commoning”. This includes the co-production of a community-based film (Chapter 7) and a subsequent community screening which encourages neighborhood organizing and voting for anti-gentrification efforts. Ultimately this dissertation engages with the future of disaster recovery planning and considers how anti-gentrification strategies can be employed in planning to prevent (un)intended consequences of physical, livelihood, and cultural displacement.

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