Departmental Papers (SPP)

Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version

November 2008


The Hurricane Katrina and NewOrleans situation was commonly called a "natural disaster" - an anomalous "event" that disrupted lives, spaces, and organizations. Research and planning attention then focused on particular aspects of the event and on restoring order. In contrast, sociologists and similar-thinking scholars have increasingly viewed disaster situations from multiple locations and histories, often using systems theory. Here, reanalysis of empirical material from ethnographic research in New Orleans pre- and post-Katrina suggests that a sociological embeddedness perspective illustrates the dynamic seamlessness of past, present, and future economic contexts and social actions. The perspective's constitutive concepts of weak, strong, and differentiated ties highlight the role of local knowledge, intermediary-led workforce networks, and sustained participatory planning in creating a robust economic environment. Toward this end, disaster research, planning, and theory building could incorporate network tie assessments into social vulnerability protocols, compare embeddedness with other perspectives, and learn from related international experiences.


Pre-peer reviewed version. Published in Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, Volume 8, Issue 1, November 2008, pp. 183-209.
The definitive version is available at



Date Posted: 04 December 2008