Title page for ETD etd-07142005-145922

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Manning, Susan Camille
Author's Email Address smanni1@lsu.edu
URN etd-07142005-145922
Title Riding Out the Risks: An Ethnographic Study of Risk Perceptions in a South Louisiana Bayou Community
Degree Master of Science (M.S.)
Department Environmental Studies
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
John C. Pine Committee Chair
Ralph J. Portier Committee Co-Chair
Pamela Jenkins Committee Member
Richard E. Condrey Committee Member
  • marginalized community
  • qualitative methods
Date of Defense 2005-06-27
Availability unrestricted

This ethnographic study explores the risk perceptions of a small unincorporated coastal community in southeastern Louisiana. This community has experienced social and environmental change due to events including tropical storms and hurricanes, erosion, subsidence, oil and gas activities, development, and the impact of global seafood markets.

Many global risk perception studies have focused on the perception of risk to human health and property connected with natural and technological disasters, but few have explored the issue of minorities and small at-risk communities. To explore this theoretical and methodological gap, this study uses a variety of qualitative ethnographic methods to examine a small at-risk community of minorities. The central question of this research asks: Why does a marginalized community with few resources choose to stay in an area that they perceive to be burdened with environmental and social threats?

Findings suggest that geographical displacement is a greater ‘risk’ than living in an area burdened with continual environmental and social threats. As Meda states:

“…if we follow the same traditional ways of evacuating for a storm that our fathers and grandfathers did, we pack up and go to our boats. Traditionally that’s what we do, that’s what we know, that’s how we keep ourselves safe. But the land has changed…the land standing between us and the storms has diminished because of erosion, subsidence, and all of these other things that came into play. Now when storms come, we get flooded with greater frequency and with higher tides and the porosity of the currents that come through, its stronger and stronger…so, those safe harbors will no longer be safe harbors and our traditional ways of evacuating, we will have to find somewhere else to go. Because they will no longer be able to sustain us and its something that we know and its something that we are going to have to face, but because of who we are and because of…our ties to the community…life at all costs is better than anything that I can think of. But we do stay and we fight for what we have and risk is part of it.”

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