Justice as Measure of Nongovernmental Organization Success in Postdisaster Community Assistance

Science, Technology, and Human Values 38 (2):224-249 (2013)
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Through exploring multiple contemporary conceptions of justice, this article illustrates that justice matters when considering outcomes in nongovernmental organization assistance. In environmental justice scholarship, the term justice has been underproblematized, assuming a tacit understanding of the concept as fairness or equitable distribution of environmental harms. Using the rebuilding of two heavily damaged poor and minority neighborhoods in post–Katrina New Orleans as case studies, this article makes evident the different conceptualizations of justice embedded within the strategies and techniques of NGOs and community organizations. Examining both practices and outcomes, I argue that the definition of justice that NGOs implicitly or explicitly adopt in their strategies and technologies of assistance can lead to very different results in postdisaster neighborhood revitalization. For science and technology studies, conceptions of justice can help articulate a more critical social science that opens up the descriptive/normative divide. This is important in thinking about equitable social change and allied policy—as it applies not only to NGO assistance but also to other science and technology issues that intersect with marginalized communities as well.



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