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The essay argues that at least four interpretive frameworks are essential to understanding the debates surrounding the reconstruction of New Orleans: neoliberalism as a global and national movement; the form, function, and processes of social-spatial enclosures; the institutional organization of racial impoverishment, and the theory and practice of neo-Bourbonism in Louisiana. As the epicenter of urban poverty, New Orleans was the site of major social disasters before Hurricane Katrina. Numerous regional institutions were organized to reproduce and intensify a range of racial, gender, class, age, and geographic inequalities. Despite the glare of the international spotlight, after Katrina these institutions engaged in accelerated asset stripping and social trapping with the support of the federal government. Unaccustomed to the nature and intensity of the social conflict in Louisiana, activists, non-profit organizations, foundations, and policymakers often exacerbated inequalities without challenging the regional institutions that generate them. Consequently, New Orleans presents several fundamental theoretical challenges to reformers and communities confronting daily social disasters.