Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Communication and Rhetorical Studies


Rachel Hall


Architecture, Katrina, New Orleans, Rendering, Space and Place, Visual Rhetoric

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


The historical events of Hurricane Katrina and the flood that followed have come to symbolize systemic failures on the part of local, state, and federal governments to do right by the residents of New Orleans. The disaster of Hurricane Katrina was mediated to a national audience, setting the stage for specific responses to take place. This thesis provides a rhetorical analysis of one recovery effort waged in the wake of governmental failures to address Katrina and its aftermath. The Make It Right Foundation (MIR) offers a unique case study in the neoliberal dynamics of celebrity philanthropy as an answer to inadequate governmental support for populations adversely affected by natural and human-made disasters. I understand the work of MIR in terms of processes that I term “disaster architecture,” neoliberal in their substitution of good design for good public policy, serving to render an ideal citizen whose obligated gratefulness for aid is directed not toward the state, but toward celebrities, architects, and private donors.

This thesis intervenes primarily with the rhetorics of aid taken up by MIR and organizations like it following disasters demanding a nationwide response. I critique MIR’s rhetorics of aid as expressed in writing, visual design, and material construction of the built environment for what I deem to be its failed attempts at providing the Lower Ninth Ward with a sustainable and just path to full recovery from the unequally disastrous effects of the hurricane. With this critique, I hope to contribute to work that encourages more systemic, structurally-focused, and rhetorically responsible work in (re)development processes of philanthropic aid in the built environment.


Open Access