Melissa Villarreal


Omi and Winant (2014) present their theory of racial formations, which provides explanation for how racial identities are created, changed, and transformed. Their concept of racial projects outlines how those identities are racial and how racial meaning is entrenched in social structures. Ray (2019) expands on this with his theory of racialized organizations, through which he identifies organizations as racial structures. This paper applies these theories to a disaster context, and seeks to explore how service providers from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and community-based organizations (CBOs) navigate disaster recovery and immigration policies to help the Mexican-origin immigrant community in Houston, Texas with their long-term housing recovery after Hurricane Harvey. I conducted semi-structured interviews and ethnographic observations with service providers from NGOs and CBOs located in Houston that serve this population with post-disaster housing. Previous research suggests that the disaster recovery system is an inherently anti-immigrant racial structure, passively and actively limiting the access to resources for the Mexican-origin immigrant community. I found that to challenge this anti-immigrant racial structure of disaster recovery, service providers assist the community through direct assistance to immigrants excluded from other programs, collaborating with other organizations to combine limited resources, helping the community navigate anti-immigrant bureaucracy, and building trust by embedding themselves in the victimized community. However, findings also show that these organizations face significant challenges in conducting their work. This research builds upon the theory of racial formations and the theory of racialized organizations and highlights how racialized community organizations navigate racial structures and influence racial formations.

M.A. in Sociology
University of Colorado Boulder

Committee Members

Lori Peek (Chair)
Christina Sue
Jill Harrison

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