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Vulnerability and Power: Social Justice Organizing in Rockaway, New York City, after Hurricane Sandy
Swedish Defence University, Department of Security, Strategy and Leadership (ISSL), CRISMART (National Center for Crisis Management Research and Training). Department of Government, Uppsala University.
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This is a study about disasters, vulnerability and power. With regards to social justice organizing a particular research problem guides the work, specifically that emancipatory projects are often initiated and steered by privileged actors who do not belong to the marginalized communities they wish to strengthen, yet the work is based on the belief that empowerment requires self-organizing from within. Through an ethnographic field study of social justice organizing in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in Rockaway, New York City, the thesis explores whether and how vulnerable groups were empowered within the Occupy Sandy network. It is a process study that traces outside activists attempts at empowering storm-affected residents over time, from the immediate relief phase to long-term organizing in the recovery phase. The activists aimed to put to practice three organizing ideals: inclusion, flexibility and horizontality, based on a belief that doing so would enhance empowerment. The analysis demonstrates that collaboration functioned better in the relief phase than in the long-term recovery phase. The same organizing ideals that seem to have created an empowering milieu for storm-affected residents in the relief phase became troublesome when relief turned to long-term recovery. The relief phase saw storm-affected people step up and take on leadership roles, whereas empowerment in the recovery phase was conditional on alignment with outside activists’ agendas. Internal tensions, conflicts and resistance from residents toward the outside organizers marked the recovery phase. It seems that length of collaborative projects is not the only factor for developing trust but so is complexity. The more complex the activities over which partners are to collaborate the less easy it is. Based on this we could further theorize that the more complex the work is the more challenging it is for privileged groups to give away control. The internal struggles of the organization partially explain the failures to influence an urban planning process that the organization attempted to impact, which connects the micro-processes with broader change processes toward transformation of vulnerability.

Abstract [sv]

Det här är en studie om katastrofer, sårbarhet och makt. Avhandlingenspringer ur ett forskningsproblem: främjandet av marginaliserade gruppersegenmakt (empowerment) tros fungera bäst om den sker inifrån den egnagruppen och utifrån självorganiserande principer, men trots detta initierasoch styrs emancipatoriska projekt ofta av aktörer som inte själva tillhör marginaliseradegrupper. Genom en etnografisk studie av gräsrotsorganiseringinom Occupy Sandy efter orkanen Sandy i Rockaway, New York City, 2012,undersöks utomstående aktivisters försök att främja utsatta gruppers egenmakt.Detta spåras över tid från akut katastrofhantering till långsiktigt förändringsarbete,utifrån tre organiseringsideal som aktivisterna försökte omsättai praktiken; inkludering, flexibilitet och horisontalitet. Samarbetsprocessenkännetecknades av att den priviligierade aktören sökte främja denicke-priviligierade aktörens egenmakt genom att gradvis lämna över kontrollenöver organisationens målformuleringar och arbetssätt. Analysen visar attsamverkan mellan aktivister och boende fungerade bra i den akuta hanteringsfasenmen sämre i återhämtningsfasen. De tre organiseringsidealen sågut att resultera i främjande av de boendes egenmakt inledningsvis. I denlångsiktiga fasen däremot kom de boendes egenmakt att villkoras av de utomståendeaktivisternas agenda; endast de som höll med främjades. Dettaledde till spänningar, konflikter, och motstånd från de boende. Utifrån dettadras slutsatsen att längden på samarbetsprojekt inte är enda faktorn som ärrelevant för huruvida tillit utvecklas, utan också graden av komplexitet iarbetsuppgifterna. Ju mer komplexa frågor som deltagare behöver kommaöverens om, desto svårare blir det att samarbeta, och desto svårare blir detför priviligierade aktörer att lämna över kontroll. Analysen visar vidare påkopplingar mellan internt inflytande för sårbara grupper inom organisationenoch organisationens externa möjligheter till politisk påverkan, vilket flätarsamman de undersökta mikroprocesserna med bredare frågor om förändringav strukturellt differentierad sårbarhet.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Uppsala University, 2017. , 205 p.
Keyword [en]
social vulnerability, disaster risk reduction, social movements, power, empowerment, Hurricane Sandy, Rockaway
National Category
Political Science
Research subject
Statsvetenskap med inriktning mot krishantering och internationell samverkan
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:fhs:diva-6696ISBN: 9789150626292 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:fhs-6696DiVA: diva2:1093820
Public defence
2017-05-19, Sal 3576, Östra Ågatan 19, Uppsala, 13:15 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2017-05-08 Created: 2017-05-08 Last updated: 2017-05-09Bibliographically approved

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