In 1999 Hurricane Floyd pummeled the eastern portion of North Carolina (NC, U.S.A.), and in its wake many localities participated in federal home acquisition-relocation programs in flood-prone areas, with shared and devolved governance. This article reports on one such program that was conducted in the City of Kinston, where a historical African-American neighborhood called Lincoln City was badly flooded by water containing raw sewage from a compromised wastewater treatment plant upstream. Afterwards, some of the acquired homes were relocated to an adjacent area populated by middle-class, African-American families. The article explores to what extent political devolution of flood mitigation disempowered residents to deal with this crisis in their waterscape. Combining a framework from medical anthropology regarding the logics of choice and care with historical political ecology, it illustrates how devolved government policy led to a continuation of the waterscape's discriminatory history after the buyout program, with no recourse for local citizens as the program worked through a logic of choice that demarcated responsibilities. Understanding this case requires a historically informed assessment of social impact, in which the chosen flood mitigation measures are critically assessed using tools from historically-informed political ecology, leading to a longerterm logic of care where needed.
Keywords: Devolution, flooding, path-dependency, waterscape, buyout, mitigation, care, choice
How to Cite:
de Vries, D. H. & Fraser, J. C., (2017) “Historical waterscape trajectories that need care: the unwanted refurbished flood homes of Kinston's devolved disaster mitigation program”, Journal of Political Ecology 24(1), 931-950. doi: https://doi.org/10.2458/v24i1.20976