“Looting as Pathology of Order.” The ways in which looting is invoked to recreate oppressive and racialized forms of social control & order.

In 2011, I submitted my graduate level dissertation as part of my studies at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. It was approved & published.

Subsequently, I find myself coming back to this document each time we hear the familiar refrain of “looting” as a call for exceptional use of force to restore “order” – whether in response to civil uprisings and disturbances, “natural” disasters, or otherwise. Reaffirming my dissertation’s argument, I see repeatedly the ways in which looting and social order depend upon and reinforce certain social constructs of race – that of anti-Black discourses and policies firmly rooted in white American racial anxieties and forms of social control and power. These dynamics are centuries old and we see them play themselves out repeatedly through today.

Several friends and colleagues have asked for a copy of my dissertation and encouraged me to share more broadly. Thus, wanting to put this file accessible here. Along with a brief abstract.

Here is the link to my graduate thesis, “Looting as Pathology of Order: Reconstructing Order in Post-Katrina New Orleans.”

This thesis examines the use of looting as a narrative of order. Focused within post-natural disaster contexts, U.S. race politics and the case study of post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, this thesis argues that the invocation and policing of looting and looters are central sites in which the prose and practice of dominant social order can be investigated and unpacked. Through the analytical lens of looting, one can decipher underlying social anxieties of disorder associated with uncontrolled “surplus populations” – and in the case of the United States, anti-Black racism based in white anxieties of race & power – and threats to property norms. In turn, order is believed to be restored when these populations and norms are properly controlled. Thus, by examining the moments and ways in which the label of looting and looter are applied and responded to, one can begin to unveil a cosmology and pathology of order.


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