Empowerment and Social Justice in the Wake of Disasters : Occupy Sandy in Rockaway after Hurricane Sandy, USA book cover
1st Edition

Empowerment and Social Justice in the Wake of Disasters
Occupy Sandy in Rockaway after Hurricane Sandy, USA

ISBN 9780367437190
Published August 9, 2022 by Routledge
118 Pages

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Book Description

This book taps into discussions about social vulnerability, empowerment, and resistance in relation to disaster relief and recovery. It disentangles tensions and dilemmas within post-disaster empowerment, through a rich ethnographic narrative of the work of Occupy Sandy in Rockaway, New York City, after Hurricane Sandy in 2012. It details both a remarkable collaborative relief phase, in which marginalized communities were empowered to take active part, as well as a phase of conflict and resistance that came about as relief turned to long-term recovery.

This volume particularly aims to understand how community empowerment processes can breach pre-disaster marginalization in the aftermath of disasters. It connects with broader emancipatory literature on dilemmas involved in empowerment ‘from the outside’. In a future of potentially harsher climate related disasters and increased social vulnerability for certain communities, this book contributes to a full and nuanced understanding of community empowerment and vulnerability reduction.

This book will be of interest to sociologists, anthropologists, geographers, political scientists, and urban studies researchers, as well as undergraduate and postgraduate students interested in disaster management, disaster risk reduction, social vulnerability, community empowerment, development studies, local studies, social work, community-based work, and emancipatory theory.

Table of Contents


List of abbreviations

Chapter 1. Shaking Things Loose


Meeting Occupy Sandy in Rockaway

Shaking Things Loose – Disasters as Windows of Social and Political Change

Barking up the Wrong Tree – Crisis Management’s Inability to fix Social Vulnerability

What does Occupy Sandy in Rockaway Bring to the Table?

Mixing it up – Living and Breathing the Field

Outline of the Book

Reference List

Chapter 2. Most Affected Least Heard


Most Affected…

…and Least Heard


Reference List

Chapter 3. Ain’t no Power like the Power of the People


Post-Disaster Empowerment Processes

Emergent groups in post-disaster settings

Inside Out or Outside In: a Puzzle of Empowerment


Reference List

Chapter 4. Tales of a Peninsula Shattered and Divided


A Peninsula Shattered

Rockaway: from summer resort to a place of socioeconomic marginalization

A Peninsula Divided


Reference List

Chapter 5. Paths of Empowerment in Disaster Relief


Cut from the Same Cloth: Occupy Sandy as part of the wider Occupy movement

A sister is born: Occupy Sandy emerges

"You are not the protagonist of this story"

Inclusion, Autonomy and Horizontality

Everyone is In: Empowerment through Inclusion

Everything is Good: Empowerment through Autonomy

Everyone is a Leader: Empowerment through Horizontality


Reference List

Chapter 6. Paths of Post-Disaster (Dis-) Empowerment


Relief turns to Long-term Recovery

Empowerment through Participating, Organizing and Learning

"There were pieces of the puzzle that weren’t written in the books"

Disempowerment through Misrepresented Subject Positions

Disempowerment through Lack of Transparency

Organic Organizational Identity and Financial Question Marks

Hidden Agendas

Disempowerment through Silenced Resistance

"We’re feeling pretty empowered already"


Reference List

Chapter 7. Saviors Trapped in Disaster (Dis-) Empowerment


A Summary of Sorts

The Savior Trap

The Intersectional Trap

The Resistance Trap

The Situated Marginalization Trap

A Trapped Disaster Scholar

Reference List


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Sara Bondesson, Associate Professor at the Swedish Defence University, is a political scientist interested in disasters, identity and power. Sara combines theorizing with ethnographic methods, since she believes normative, emancipatory and transformative theories are best explored from the ground up. Apart from the Swedish National Defence University, she is also affiliated with the Centre of Natural Hazards and Disaster Science (CNDS). In teaching future political scientists and crisis managers she works with participatory and scenario-based methodologies and usually mix it up with story-telling or improvisational methods.