Accepted Papers:

"Non-citizen citizens": undocumented Honduran migrants organizing politically in post-Katrina New Orleans  


Deniz Daser (University of St. Gallen (HSG))

Paper Short Abstract:

This paper examines how undocumented Latinx migrants have organized politically for the right to stay in post-Katrina New Orleans by framing their past labor in post-disaster rebuilding as a civic contribution that has earned them the right to remain in the city.

Paper long abstract:

Disasters often serve as the meeting point for multiple mobilities. Just as displacement characterizes certain populations, recovery can bring in new communities to fill depleted labor markets. Rather than running smoothly, however, reconstruction is itself stratified by racial inequalities, class disparities, and unequal allocation of resources. Drawing on dissertation research conducted in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, in this paper I examine how the failure of the levees and flooding of 80% of the city led to rebuilding characterized by a securitized neoliberal governance regime that reproduced already existing racial and class inequalities (Adams 2013). As largely working-class Black residents were displaced, a new labor pool of mostly undocumented Latinx migrants quickly filled the ranks of a post-disaster political economy in which labor law enforcement was largely suspended. As the post-disaster reconstruction phase passed, construction has remained a robust industry that attracts migrant labor. Paralleling this post-2005 era has been an aggressive deportation regime (De Genova and Peutz 2010) that has continued until now. I argue here that while the suspension of labor law enforcement and the heightening of immigration law prosecution have worked in tandem to subordinate the labor of vulnerable individuals, undocumented Latinx workers have responded by organizing politically and asserting their right to stay in the city they helped to rebuild. In so doing, these non-citizen citizens, as I call them, embrace new forms of "insurgent citizenships" (Holston 2009) that re-conceptualize past labor as a sacrifice and civic contribution that has earned them the right to stay.

Panel P006
Post-disaster situations and the appropriation of disaster governance from below [Disaster and Crisis Anthropology Network (DICAN)]