Plater Robinson Bio

D'Ann Penner

Scholar in Residence
Southern Institute for Education and Research

Dr. D'Ann Penner is an oral historian focusing on how people respond to cataclysmic disruptions. She is the co-author of The Famine of 1932-1933 in the Volga and North Caucasus (Samara University Press, 2003). Between September 2005 and August 2008, Dr. Penner conducted over 275 interviews of survivors displaced by Hurricane Katrina. During this time she was affiliated with the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change at the University of Memphis, the Amistad Research Center at Tulane University, and finally with the Center for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University. She holds a PhD in history from the University of California at Berkeley.

On August 29, 2005, Dr. Penner was a tenured professor of Russian history. Three major historical events had anchored her previous research projects: the catastrophe of collectivization, a famine that claimed six million lives, and the collapse of the Soviet Union. She was drawn to Katrina work because she could not bear to witness such a tragedy in her own time without documenting the violations of human rights. Seeing the human cost of displacement compelled her to give up a tenured position in order to dedicate herself to retooling as a scholar for the purpose of developing new theoretical sensitivities with which to approach the qualitative narratives.

Along with Dr. Keith C. Ferdinand, Dr. Penner is the author of Overcoming Katrina: African American Voices from the Crescent City and Beyond (New York: Palgrave Macmillan Press, 2009). The book was awarded the Leadership in Journalism Award by the Congressional Black Caucus in September, 2009. Intended as a corrective to media portrayals of Black New Orleanians as poor and unruly, it reflects the priorities of its 27 diverse narrators and honors their wishes to have their words interjected into the public sphere.

As a Scholar in Residence at the Southern Institute for Education and Research at Tulane University this year, she is taking law classes and conducting research that aims to put the questions of Katrina's aftermath in legal perspective. From May 15, 2010 through July 15, 2010, Dr. Penner will conduct another round of follow-up interviews for the purpose of exploring intermediate-term impact of (serial) displacement on individuals and communities. Ultimately, she is working on an interpretive, interdisciplinary study entitled Scattered: Community and Resilience after Katrina's Storm. It is a story of a community torn asunder in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. How Black New Orleanians succored and sustained kin, neighbors, and strangers before, during, and after the storm is the other narrative thread running through the manuscript. In this project, the impact of Katrina's aftermath on individuals and communities is set in the broader context of place, church, and kin. Sources of stress are excavated from studies of slavery, segregation, urban violence, and the prison-industrial complex. The pre-Katrina context of the narrators' lives is restored in order to more faithfully render the trajectories of displacement of entire communities and the impact of such displacement on emotional resources for thriving and surviving.

Pennerís most recent Katrina article explores some of the under-appreciated causes of displaced Katrina survivorsí depression, anxiety, and stress that heightens their cardiovascular disease risk today and in the future.
See "Unanswered Questions After Hurricane Katrina."

"Overcoming Katrina on Counterpoint associated with The University of Memphis"

"Assault Rifles, Separated Families, and Murder in Their Eyes: Unasked Questions after Hurricane Katrina"