Ecologies of Inequity

How Disaster Response Reconstitutes Race and Class Inequality

Title Details

Pages: 198

Trim size: 6.000in x 9.000in



Pub Date: 08/01/2023

ISBN: 9-780-8203-6380-6

List Price: $29.95


Pub Date: 08/01/2023

ISBN: 9-780-8203-6381-3

List Price: $114.95

Ecologies of Inequity

How Disaster Response Reconstitutes Race and Class Inequality

Class-based hardships navigating FEMA’s bureaucratic procedures

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  • Description
  • Reviews

With Ecologies of Inequity, Sancha Doxilly Medwinter tells the story of how the racially and ethnically diverse, immigrant, and urban poor disaster survivors lose ground to their White, middleclass-to-affluent and Black middle-class homeowner neighbors during official disaster response. Medwinter presents analyses from 120 conversational and expert interviews with disaster responders and survivors in New York City, beginning as early as twelve days after the November 2012 landfall of Superstorm Sandy. The settings are Carnarsie, Brooklyn, and the Rockaway peninsula, which experienced six to eight feet of flooding.

The color- and class-blind assumptions of disaster responders and the labyrinthine process of obtaining a FEMA grant combine to exclude and increase the psychological burden of urban poor disaster survivors. Similarly, the locational decisions and volunteer service perimeters uncritically replicate the segregation logics of urban spaces. Part of this story explains how the chronically poor repeatedly get displaced by the machinery of official disaster response. One reason is the introduction of a race- and class-blind disaster “logic of response” that caters to the needs of the newly created class of “disaster victims,” while displacing the “logic of service,” which typically attempts to address the needs of the chronically poor.

A detailed, well-written account of a strongly executed qualitative and comprehensive study that identifies multiple mechanisms through which disaster responses solidify and enhance extant race and class inequities in neighborhoods and communities. It makes important contributions to extant disaster research.

—Lynn Weber, coauthor of Hurricane Katrina and the Forgotten Coast of Mississippi

Disasters don’t just 'lay bare' prior inequality, like a flood washing away topsoil. In Ecologies of Inequity, we see how disaster response itself exacerbates and reestablishes inequality. Sancha Medwinter tells a complex story powerfully and empathetically, contributing to literature on environmental racism, disasters, and social networks.

—Louise Seamster, assistant professor of sociology and African American studies, University of Iowa

About the Author/Editor

SANCHA DOXILLY MEDWINTER is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.