Facing the Rising Tide: Co-occurring Disasters, Displacement, and Adaptation in Coastal Louisiana's Tribal Communities
Description Degree awarded: Ph.D. Anthropology. American University Environmental and technological disasters, extractive industries, river mismanagement, and climate change are drastically transforming coastal Louisiana's water- and landscape. Using ethnographic research and theories of structural violence and ecosyndemics, this dissertation investigates the experiences of environmental change and displacement for the Isle de Jean Charles and Grand Caillou/Dulac Bands of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indians and the Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe. The objectives of the research were to learn: (1) how people from the three tribes were adapting to environmental change, including making decisions to resist physical displacement or relocate; (2) how people experienced environmental change and displacement; and (3) how environmental degradation intersected with economic, social, and political power structures. The goals were to understand people's experiences of co-occurring disasters and environmental change, what individuals and communities were doing when faced with potential displacement, and what lessons could be learned for communities undergoing similar experiences.This dissertation concluded that the co-occurrence of disasters, capitalist-based resource extraction and other infrastructure development and practices, climate change, globalization, systematic discrimination, and forced assimilation caused livelihood, health, and socio-cultural effects for both people who had stayed in place and those who had relocated. As the landscape in which residents had carried out their livelihoods and cultural practices, and of which they had multi-generational knowledge and memories, rapidly changed, many people experienced a sense of dislocation even while in place. The data showed how environmental degradation and state-led coastal restoration and flood protection plans reflected and reproduced social inequalities and power dynamics that have turned coastal Louisiana into an energy sacrifice zone. This dissertation includes recommendations about adaptation and community-led relocation to be considered by government agencies, communities facing environmental change and displacement, and researchers.
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