In the 1960s some valuable sociological research was carried out on the plight of black people in US disasters (Anderson 1970a) and also on the role of the military in such events (Anderson 1969, 1970b). Although these topics have not been totally neglected since then, they have tended to lapse in social scientists' agendas (cf. Wright 1997). Now the disaster in New Orleans has thrown them once again into high relief.
To begin with, Hurricane Katrina quickly became a "class-quake" with divisions arranged along lines of social status and ethnic origin (Blaikie et al. 1994 p. 6, Fothergill et al. 1999). Secondly, the descent of emergency relief activities into increasingly strenuous attempts to restore law and order was strikingly anomalous with respect to other disasters elsewhere (Johnson 1987).
Two conceptual models can be applied in order to understand this situation. The first, a symbolic model developed from popular culture, can only be utilised in a negative sense. The second is an evolutionary model that analyses disaster response in terms of the global development of civil protection.