Social patterns of natural disasters: The case of hurricane Katrina


  • Mirko Filipović Faculty for Special Education and Rehabilitation, University of Belgrade, Serbia
  • Sonja Žakula Institute of Ethnography SASA, Belgrade, Serbia



catastrophe, poverty, class, race, bureaucracy, crime, reconstruction, ecological inequality


Public perception and imagination tend to view natural disasters and catastrophes as phenomena that impact everyone equally. However, they do not occur in a historical, political, economic or social vacuum. Every phase and aspect of a disaster - its causes, vulnerability, preparedness, aftermath, response, reconstruction, the scope of the disaster and the price paid in the end are, to a lesser or greater extent, socially conditioned. Natural disasters actually replicate and amplify existing social inequalities and their effects. Such was also the case with hurricane Katrina. Black people, the poor, the elderly... remained in sunken New Orleans because their economic and social exclusion diminished their possibility to escape the disaster (the same way it diminished their opportunity to escape poverty). Had Katrina been a mere accident of geography and ecology, it would have been possible to peacefully await the resolution of its aftermath. However, because the inequalities which Katrina made apparent have deep socio-historical roots, it was illusory to expect that they would be repaired by the public policies on offer. Because of this, Katrina remains a powerful reminder to those advocating for a more just and democratic society.


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How to Cite

Filipović, Mirko, and Sonja Žakula. 2017. “Social Patterns of Natural Disasters: The Case of Hurricane Katrina”. Issues in Ethnology and Anthropology 12 (1):195-215.