Mandating Vulnerability: Coastal Restoration's Erasure of Southeast Asian Fisherfolk in Southeast Louisiana

Authors: Simi Kang*, University of Minnesota
Topics: Social Geography, Immigration/Transnationalism, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: political ecology, Vietnamese American, commercial fishing, restoration, river management, subsidence, sacrifice zone
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Galerie 3, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In Southeast Louisiana, the fraught relationship between borders, regulation, and fisherfolks’ livelihoods is deeply linked to the state’s attachment to European and settler colonialisms, which continue to intervene in the traditionally reciprocal relationship between land, water, and people. In my research with Vietnamese and Vietnamese fisherfolk, it is evident that refugee and immigrant fishing communities are at once more tacitly and strictly regulated by the above functions of land and water borders.

Primary to the above violences is the ways these communities are denied a voice in decision making about large structural projects—from coastal restoration to oil and gas extraction—that further erase and silence their ability to work, live, and care for the coast as reciprocal actors in its day-to-day survival. At a time when Louisiana is positioning itself as a global leader in coastal restoration, adaptation, and resilience planning, this deliberate oversight overwhelmingly shapes the presents and futures of all coastal residents.

My work addresses these violences by repositioning individual and community stories, rendering them central to the infrastructure of the coast’s future as resistance work. By interrogating how policy has been shaped and overlaying community expert knowledge, I show the failures of state expertise, advocating for a wholesale restructuring of how resources, peoples, and place are used to reaffirm and centralize longstanding neocolonial governance in Louisiana.

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