Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Robert C. Smith

Subject Categories

Educational Sociology | Sociology


dispossession, education, neoliberal reform, New Orleans, race


When much of the physical landscape of New Orleans was destroyed with Hurricane Katrina, expedited change and a need to redefine the city's future rushed in. The "new" New Orleans would be decisively different: it would be change-oriented, optimistic, and a leader in progressive reform movements. Discourse around post-Katrina New Orleans was focused on making New Orleans "better than before" and becoming a national leader for cutting-edge urban renewal. On-the-ground change mirrored this discourse, as the city's institutional landscape was dismantled and reconfigured along lines of privatization and newness as the trend of "accumulation by dispossession" (Harvey, 2005) blanketed the city. To create this new city, a narrative of an ideal new resident was necessary to embody this change and represent the city's future. I refer to this ideal in this dissertation as the "Renewers" who are young, idealistic, recent college graduates working in justice-oriented professions to be a part of the movement for urban renewal that has swept New Orleans. These Renewers further and justify the narrative of reform, as they represent the ideal future of the developing city. At the same time, their narrative completely excludes the narrative of many New Orleanians who are being left behind by renewal. These residents, whom I refer to as the "Disposables" of post-Katrina New Orleans, live and function everyday amongst the ghosts of neoliberal reform as they struggle to not be defined by what seems to be a planned dispossession of their lives. Through years of ethnographic research in public schools in New Orleans with a non-profit organization, I show the effects of urban renewal and reform on those excluded from the narrative. This has fundamentally altered the sense of place and local identity of New Orleans, as the city relies on Disposable's cultural contributions and Renewer's economic and social status.