In what ways was Hurricane Katrina an event in international history? Both the hurricane and the post-Katrina catastrophe in the Gulf were mostly (and rightfully) reported as having local, regional and national significance. But in our globalizing age, no event is fully confined to its immediate setting. In this project, Paul Kramer focuses on the ways the disaster was shaped by the United States' foreign policy, specifically, by the Bush administration's "war on terror."
Kramer, a historian at Vanderbilt University, looks at the militarization of rescue, relief and policing after Katrina, exploring the experiences of National Guard forces involved (some of whom rushed home from Iraq and Afghanistan to help their local communities), as well as controversies over the military’s unprecedented role in post-Katrina actions and their implications for civil liberties.
The project examines the post-9/11 subordination of emergency management to the mandates of “homeland security,” struggles over the prioritization of anti-terrorism over natural disasters in emergency planning, and declining wartime budgets for levee construction in New Orleans. It also explores post-Katrina reconstruction efforts, discussing international offers of aid (the vast majority of which the US government rejected), the presence of military contractors (most of them fresh from Persian Gulf contracts), and debates over whether Katrina evacuees were “refugees.”