Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Geography & Anthropology
“Rhyming Through Disasters” investigates how disasters are socially constructed through colonialism and austerity, and how they are mitigated by communities of survivors. Based on two years of ethnographic research in New York and Puerto Rico, I analyze how survivors of Hurricane María and DiaspoRicans organized long-term grassroots disaster recovery efforts through arts-based movements and new digital technologies to mitigate governmental and social abandonment. I examine how governmental and social abandonment led to mass migration, political unrest, and the development of new concepts of sovereignty after Hurricane María. Building on anthropological understandings of disasters as made through structural violence, I argue that Black Puerto Ricans, Trans people, and single mothers experienced increased hyper-marginalization as they navigated discrimination and heightened barriers to accessing disaster services. They addressed their experiences of hyper-marginalization through engaging in organizing across vast geographies and digital space, creating alternative kin networks, creating and sharing art, and engaging in protest. I engage interdisciplinary and decolonial research methods to highlight the role of poets and poems in disaster recovery, local theories of vulnerability, the experiences of people forcibly displaced by Hurricane María, and the ways in which Puerto Ricans have faced a continuous state of disaster. Furthermore, through this research, I trace how social media is impacting the way disasters are lived, experienced, and confronted.
Gonzalez, Melinda, "Rhyming Through Disaster: Community Organizing and Displacement in Puerto Rico and New York after Hurricane Maria" (2021). LSU Doctoral Dissertations. 5511.
Available for download on Sunday, March 12, 2028