Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Studies


Susan V. Donaldson

Committee Member

Elizabeth Losh

Committee Member

Hannah Rosen

Committee Member

Anna Hartnell


“Insurgents on the Bayou: Hurricane Katrina, Counterterrorism, and Literary Dissent on America’s Gulf Coast” examines Hurricane Katrina as a crucial moment of social, political, and cultural negotiation between counterterror policy and public resistance to it. Using a combination of literary and historical analysis with emphasis on close reading, critical race studies, and cultural studies, this project puts forth a three-pronged argument. First, post-9/11 governance prioritized the protection of critical infrastructure (e.g., electrical grids, communication networks, etc.) and counterterror preparedness over social and environmental precarities such as poverty, eroding wetlands, and crumbling civic architecture. At the same time, counterterror governance reinvigorated anti-Black and anti-Arab racisms that led to the militarization of post-Katrina New Orleans. Second, I draw from the Department of Defense’s concept of asymmetric warfare to contend that post-Katrina authors engaged in “narrative insurgency,” or a type of discursive guerilla warfare or resistance, against the rhetoric and practices deployed by government officials, para/military actors, and the media in the wake of the storm. Against the might of the counterterror state, post-Katrina authors and filmmakers condemned counterterror rhetoric and practice, as well as humanized hurricane survivors to contravene narratives of Black and Arab criminality. Finally, I argue that post-Katrina texts function as early expressions of counterterror literature by positioning the storm’s aftermath within a framework of global racialized violence. Texts including Spike Lee’s When the Levees Broke (2007), Jesmyn Ward’s Bois Sauvage trilogy, Dave Egger’s Zeitoun (2010), and Omar el Akkad’s American War (2017) not only connect the storm to domestic apparatuses of slavery and mass incarceration, but also to international systems of counterterror detention and overseas occupation. In doing so, post-Katrina authors and filmmakers forged transnational and trans-temporal networks of solidarity and resistance to contemporary racial and imperial violence.




© The Author

Available for download on Wednesday, August 14, 2030