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Coupled Vulnerability and Resilience: the Dynamics of Cross-Scale Interactions in Post-Katrina New Orleans

Kevin F. Gotham, Tulane University
Richard Campanella, Tulane University


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We investigate the impact of trauma on cross-scale interactions in order to identify the major social-ecological factors affecting the pace and trajectory of post-Katrina rebuilding in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. Disaster and traumatic events create and activate networks and linkages at different spatial and institutional levels to provide information and resources related to post-trauma recovery and rebuilding. The extension, intensification, and acceleration of cross-scale linkages and interactions in response to trauma alter organizational couplings, which then contribute to the vulnerability and resilience of social-ecological systems. Rather than viewing urban ecosystems as either resilient or vulnerable, we conceptualize them as embodying both resilient and vulnerable components. This integrated approach directs analytical attention to the impact of socio-legal regulations, government policies, and institutional actions on resilience and vulnerability, which are also systemic properties of urban ecosystems.

Key words

disaster; Hurricane Katrina; New Orleans; resilience; trauma; vulnerability
Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087