Title

Communication, Crisis, and Identity: Dialectical Tensions In Family Narratives About Hurricane Katrina

Date of Award

2008

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Communication Studies

First Advisor

Richard Conville

Advisor Department

Communication Studies

Abstract

In this study victims of Hurricane Katrina ordered their experiences with the crisis into meaningful themes which expressed their values, actions, inactions, occupations, needs and losses, and feelings. In interviews participants explained what happened, when it happened, how they responded, how they thought they should have responded, and how they handled situations surrounding the storm. Narratives about situations after the storm revealed descriptions of their and others' relationships in interactions with representatives of larger social units. The dialectical analysis revealed dialectical tensions that emphasized participants' dynamic and changing relationships and identities. Dialectical analysis of narratives about those relationships revealed dialectical tensions in the form of dialectical oppositions in relationship maintenance and identity gaps in identity maintenance. Nine dialectical oppositions and nine identity gaps were revealed in the four analyzed narratives. There were five inclusion-seclusion, two conventionality-uniqueness, one revelation-concealment, and one approach-resistance dialectical oppositions and four identity gaps between personal and relational frames of identity, three gaps between the enactment and relational frames of identity, one gap between the personal and enactment frame of identity and one identity gap between the personal and communal frame of identity revealed. The dialectical analysis also revealed that participants used strategies to cope with the dialectical tensions which were indicative of threats to identity. The threats to identity consisted of breaks in continuity, threats to self-esteem and threats to efficacy caused by the storm and surrounding circumstances. In summary, participants exposed themes, dialectical tensions and coping strategies when facing and surviving threats from their Hurricane Katrina experiences.