Anthropology and Environment Society
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
This paper presents results from qualitative interviews, a survey, and ethnographic fieldwork in areas of Houston Texas that flooded repeatedly, most recently with Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Using the motifs of the fluid and the fixed, the paper discusses the range of circumstances faced by residents who flooded as they consider their futures. Well over a year after Hurricane Harvey, in some low-income neighborhoods, residents are still living in flooded homes that they can neither fully repair nor sell, and experience heightened anxiety whenever it rains. In other, more wealthy, neighborhoods, residents have elevated their homes to gain the safety of living above flood waters. In these two cases residents are fixed in place, but in much different ways. Other cases illustrate how fluidity comes to matter in different ways for flooded residents. Some tenants who were flooded out of low-income rental apartments have relocated elsewhere while new tenants have moved in, unaware that the apartments have flooded repeatedly. In more wealthy neighborhoods, the optimism that characterized the founding of postwar suburbs in Houston has been undermined and some residents are unsure if they want to stay. In light of the atomism laid bare by these instances of fixity and fluidity, I conclude with the question of how to reimagine the collective.