The following proposals were submitted and accepted for the National Women's Studies Association 2011 conference.
Panel Title: Displaced: An Intersectional Analysis of Life in the Katrina Diaspora
Keywords: Intersectionality, Diasporas, Social Justice
Type of Presenter: Tenured Faculty
Hurricane Katrina resulted in one of the largest and most abrupt evacuations in U.S. history. Nearly one and a half million people left home for at least a short span of time, and hundreds of thousands of them are still displaced and facing ever diminishing prospects for an eventual return. This panel includes four presenters and features the work of a collaborative of twelve feminist social scientists who devoted the past five years to field research on displaced people in thirteen different communities across the country. The papers highlight the two key themes that emerged from the work: the ways that multiple social inequalities in the receiving communities shaped the evacuees’ recovery, and the central role of women in evacuation and resettlement networks. The session directly addresses The Politics of Crisis theme by employing an intersectional framework to analyze the experiences of Katrina’s displaced (Note: Other members of the research collective will likely participate as additional discussants.)
Title (Individual Paper): When Demand Exceeds Supply: Disaster Response and the Southern Political Economy
Presenter: Lynn Weber, University of South Carolina
Since the political realignment of the 1980s, the South has led the nation in implementing conservative economic and social policies: privatization of government functions, reduced taxes for the wealthy, deregulation, deep cuts in social spending. These policies, along with a Southern legacy of extreme race, class, and gender inequality, defined the context of reception for Katrina evacuees throughout the region. Based on 90 interviews and documentary evidence this paper describes the context in Columbia, South Carolina as particularly harsh, especially for women-headed families, and characterized by: affordable housing shortages, lack of public transportation, punitive and restricted welfare benefits, limited employment opportunities, and racial and cultural conflict.
Title (Individual Paper): “We Need to Get Together With Each Other”: Women’s Narratives of “Help” in Katrina’s Displacement
Presenter: Jacqueline Litt, Rutgers University
This paper describes an evacuation chain created by low-income African American women which resulted in 54 New Orleanians—including family members, friends, and acquaintances—surviving Katrina in a two bedroom duplex in Baton Rouge. The story reveals how women’s informal carework was a significant safety net for evacuees. While evacuees sought and used formal institutions of assistance for food and other expenses, a norm of care among women dominated the evacuees’ responses to kin members’ needs. Networks expanded to meet the needs of individuals not yet part of the circle, and caregiving came to constitute the identity of the network anchors.
Title (Individual Paper): Katrina Evacuee Reception in Rural East Texas: The Limits of Empathy
Presenter: Lee Miller, Sam Houston State University
Based on research in Huntsville, Texas with community leaders responsible for managing the sheltering and assistance efforts for evacuees, this paper documents the challenges that scarce resources posed for a receiving community and the displaced who landed in it. It further illustrates how leaders’ attitudes toward the displaced shifted over time from welcome to suspicion to overt hostility—and how these feelings were shaped by race, class, and gender stereotypes. Community leaders expected that after a short time, people should be self-sufficient (no matter what their pre-disaster circumstances), suggesting that empathy is a time-limited, raced, classed, and gendered phenomenon.
Title (Individual Paper): After the Flood: Faith and the Diaspora
Presenter: Pam Jenkins, University of New Orleans
Drawing on interviews with 30 displaced men and women in Baton Rouge, this paper presents a picture of the meaning and function of Black churches for displaced persons. Years after the storm, facing still uncertain futures, displaced people’s greatest expressed need was for spiritual support in community. Connecting with a new “home church” in Baton Rouge helped women, in particular, reestablish old community ties, feel some continuity with the past, and develop new ties in Baton Rouge. Men were more likely to turn to the church for material support, but they too found a sense of community through their new church.
Presenters: Alice Fothergill, University of Vermont and Jessica Pardee, Rochester Institute of Technology
Paper Title: Disposable targets: The Deaths of Filipina Overseas Foreign Workers as Feminicides
Keywords: Globalization, Global South, Third World Women
Type of Presenter: Graduate Student
Presenter: Stephanie Santos, UCLA
The Philippine government frames the growing number of deaths among Filipina overseas foreign workers (OFWs) as isolated incidents, even as the women’s bodies bear signs of abuse. I argue that the deaths of OFWs are feminicides, part of the Philippine government’s long track record of sanctioning violence against women. I locate the deaths of Filipina OFWs within the continuum of feudalism, development aggression, the Philippine government’s labor export programs, and the absence of infrastructure on the part of the Philippine and host governments to protect migrant workers. Filipina OFWs become the disposable targets in the country’s bid for economic development.
My paper draws from Rosa Linda Fregoso’s framework of feminicide and the discourse of globalization. I trace the feminization of wage- and migrant labor as tropes that unify the murders of migrant women. Their deaths illustrate, as Fregoso states, how “this newly constituted global economic order impacts the most vulnerable communities, the bodies of the poor and Third World women, who are its disposable targets of labor exploitation.” By understanding their deaths as feminicides, these deaths emerge not as isolated cases, but as systemic failures and refusals of the state to protect its female citizens. In fact, by undermining the living conditions and displacing women from their communities, then aggressively promoting labor migration, the state is actively exposing its own female citizens to harm. The framework of feminicide thus makes it possible to recognize the growing OFW deaths as a crisis, rather than the price to be paid so that developing countries could participate in the new global economic order.