Graduation Year


Date of Thesis Acceptance

Spring 5-13-2015

Major Department or Program



Jack Johnson


After Hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans on August 29th, 2005, the United States came under fire for its mistreatment of poor black citizens in the storm’s aftermath. Among those accusing the United States of racial discrimination was the Committee of the International Convention on Eliminating all Forms of Racial Discrimination, or CERD. The interactions between CERD and the U.S. exemplified some of the issues human rights treaty bodies like CERD face in ensuring compliance without the aid of enforcement mechanisms, especially when dealing with a uniquely powerful state like the U.S. This inability to enforce adherence leads bodies like CERD to depend upon the power of norms for shaping public opinion and state policy; however, it can be difficult to determine whether norms have successfully influenced public thought and thus spread international conceptions of human rights. My research examines the discourses used by activist organizations, both local and national, and newspapers as a tentative method of determining whether human rights norms have been successfully proliferated among American institutions. By looking at the discourses these institutions did or did not invoke in their coverage of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, I then discuss where CERD has successfully influenced American thinking regarding racial discrimination and where it has not. Furthermore, I examine what these results imply for future courses of action for treaty bodies as they look towards further protecting and promoting human rights both within the United States and elsewhere.

Page Count


Subject Headings

Natural disasters -- Political aspects, Discrimination in housing -- Louisiana, New Orleans (La.), Human rights -- Government policy -- United States -- 21st Century, Disaster relief -- Social aspects, Hurricane Katrina (2005), Hurricane Katrina (2005), United Nations -- General Assembly -- Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), Whitman College -- Dissertation collection 2015 -- Politics Department

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Public Accessible Thesis

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