From The Ground Up: A Qualitative Analysis Of Gulf Coast Vietnamese Community-based Organizations And Community Rebuilding In Post-disaster Louisiana, Mississippi, And Alabama
While researchers have long recognized the disproportionate impact of natural disasters on racial and ethnic communities, research remains incomplete in examining the plight of Gulf Coast Vietnamese residents after Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. This study presents a comprehensive, qualitative investigation of three different Vietnamese communities located in New Orleans, Biloxi, and Bayou La Batre and details how residents established and maintained nonprofit community based organizations in a region that previously saw little or no formal mobilization among Vietnamese residents. Existing studies tend to isolate the extent to which variables such as language, culture, social networks, and religious institutions, influence recovery outcomes. In contrast, this study, by drawing upon multiple avenues of data collection, including 54 in-depth interviews, fieldwork, and participant observation, provides an ethnographic analysis of immigrant community building via the unique circumstances of post-crisis community rebuilding. Findings reveal that despite the differences among by the study sites, one overarching theme emerges: new Gulf South Vietnamese organizations struggled to bridge gaps and build relationships as they sought to transition the community of inexperienced, naive, or complacent Vietnamese locals from loose, informal networks to structured organizational forms. This work examines the challenges faced by organizations as they become established and the strategies by which they grow and become sustainable. Suggestions for how ethnic organizations may better serve and perform outreach into Vietnamese enclaves are presented in the form of lessons learned. Ultimately, this study extends the established literature on the Vietnamese experience in the United States and contributes to the overall canon of research regarding Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.