After the Storm
Photo: Lewis Watts 2005
The Cultural Politics of Hurricane Katrina
International Conference Bochum katrinaconference.blogs.rub.de 6-7 December 2013 Kulturzentrum Bahnhof Langendreer Wallbaumweg 108 Bochum|Germany
Friday, December 6 9.00-9.30
Keynote Lynnell L. Thomas University of Massachusetts, Boston Desire and Disaster: Touring Race and Class in Post-Katrina New Orleans Chair: Evangelia Kindinger
Panel 1: Political and Cultural Contexts Demetrius L. Eudell Wesleyan University Scapegoating Katrina or Toward a Systemic Viewpoint? René Philipp Kastner Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz How Civilian Disaster Volunteers Saved New Orleans: Civil Commitment in the Absence of Governmental Responsibility Nikki Brown University of New Orleans After Katrina: A Visual History of African Americans in New Orleans, 2010 to 2013 Chair: Anette Pankratz
Panel 2: Visualizing Katrina: Fiction Miriam Strube Universität Paderborn Of Beasts and Girls: Filming Katrina as a Magic Realist Tale Kornelia Freitag Ruhr-Universität Bochum “Down in the Treme,” or Televising Disaster in the New Millennium Michael Bucher Universität zu Köln Play for that Money, Boys! Refractions of Class in Treme Chair: Sina Nitzsche
Screening: Bury the Hatchet Aaron Walker, USA 2010
Dinner at Kneipe im Bahnhof
Saturday, December 7 9.00-10.30
Panel 3: Voicing Katrina Cyprian Piskurek Technische Universität Dortmund Dance Back from the Grave: Musical Responses to Hurricane Katrina Philipp Siepmann Ruhr-Universität Bochum Natural Hazards and Human Vulnerability in Dave Eggers’s Zeitoun: A Concept for Teaching Hurricane Katrina in the EFL Classroom Katie Carmichael Ohio State University Where Y’at Since the Storm?: Linguistic Eﬀects of Hurricane Katrina in Greater New Orleans Chair: Monika Müller Coﬀee Break Keynote Lewis Watts University of California, Santa Cruz Picturing New Orleans: How Documenting the Culture and People Both Revealed and Obscured the Narrative of Place Chair: Simon Dickel Lunch Break Panel 4: Memory Susanne Leikam Universität Regensburg Exposing Narratives of Disaster in the Memorial Landscape of Hurricane Katrina Florian Freitag Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz Post-Katrina, Postcolonial, Postslavery: Discursive Strategies in Rosalyn Story’s Wading Home (2010) Courtney George Columbus State University Revisiting Place, the Memorial, and the Historical in Natasha Trethewey’s Beyond Katrina and Tom Piazza’s Why New Orleans Matters Chair: Roland Weidle Coﬀee Break Panel 5: Visualizing Katrina: Documentary Kate Parker Horigan Indiana University, Bloomington Documenting Disaster: Unsettlement and Uplift in Trouble the Water Delphine Letort Université du Le Mans Serialization of the Documentary: Telling the Story of Katrina in Spike Lee’s When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (2006) and Its Sequel If God Is Willing And Da Creek Don’t Rise (2011) Aischa Niedballa Ruhr-Universität Bochum Patterns of the Past: The Racial Politics in When the Levees Broke Chair: Heike Steinhoﬀ
Nikki Brown University of New Orleans After Katrina: A Visual History of African Americans in New Orleans, 2010 to 2013 In New Orleans, African American community organizations experienced a resurgence of activity after Hurricane Katrina. Residents of the city, particularly African American men, created opportunities for leadership, development, mentoring by establishing diﬀerent neighborhood groups that addressed specific needs. There are several political/social organizations (and political organizations) that are successfully rebuilding African American communities or addressing social problems, outside of the purview of state and local governments. An added nuance is that many of these organizations operate within a black nationalist political framework, in that they champion economic development, self-determination, and community participation outside of the reach of white institutions. This conference paper explores the change over time in the attitudes and work of African American men regarding their community work in New Orleans. From 2010 to 2013, I photographed and conducted interviews with African American men in New Orleans. Here were the guidelines: the men lived in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina; they returned within two years; they participated in the rebuilding in some form; they liked to talk politics; and they consented to posing for a photograph for me. A simple, yet compelling narrative emerged. While Hurricane Katrina continues to exert a heavy toll, African American men’s tight-knit social networks form the spiritual center of the city and play a tremendous role in the city’s reconstruction. In terms of methodology, this paper draws on a number of disciplines, in order to show the cultural politics of New Orleans and the image of African American men: photography, history, sociology, and political science. I will present about 30 images and the oral histories behind the photographs. For urban history, I’m relying on the tremendous contributions of Joe Trotter and Arnold Hirsch. For political science, I’m expanding on the great work by Melissa Harris-Perry on African American political ideology, as explained in Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought. For recent narratives of Hurricane Katrina, I want to explore the impact of Hurricane Katrina beyond the work of Michael Eric Dyson.
Michael Bucher Universität zu Köln Play for that Money, Boys! Refractions of Class in Treme The TV series Treme (2010–2013), set in New Orleans three months after Hurricane Katrina, dramatizes the struggles of a diverse cast of citizens of New Orleans, aﬄuent and poor, who return to the city or have lived through the disaster in their hometown. That Treme was so greatly anticipated—even to the extent that it was hoped the series would renew international attention to New
Orleans—is mainly due to it being the latest project from David Simon and Eric Overmyer, whose earlier show The Wire had redefined what the genre could do in terms of realism and complexity. At the same time, The Wire had met with international acclaim and a fair amount of success. Like The Wire, a portrayal of Baltimore, Treme depicts the economic and social dynamics of a city (with a focus on Tremé/Lafitte, considered the historical home of free and freed African Americans); or, in Simon’s words, it tries to show “how we live together.” Transporting The Wire’s realism to New Orleans is in itself fascinating given the special place New Orleans has always held in the American cultural imagination as an important site of the Southern Gothic. The historical and cultural specifics of Louisiana—Catholic and Voodoo traditions, French and Cajun heritage, New Orleans as the cultural and economic center of the old South and its by far largest city, the sexual transgression associated with Louisiana’s largest city—seem to make it a favorite site for the representation of the other within, as evinced by countless examples in literature ranging from the New Orleans texts of Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner to countless vampire series. Treme begins by depicting New Orleans’s two main scenes of cultural production: music and food. Here, it successfully creates realism and complexity by consistently showing the economic necessities of the protagonists even in situations that would traditionally be employed to conjure up the New Orleans myth. At the end of the first episode, for example, Mardi Gras Indian chief Albert Lambreaux performs his first traditional Mardi Gras Indian dance after Katrina in order to negotiate social responsibility with a reluctant friend, whom this performance convinces—and obliges—to clear the rubble from the practice space of Lambreaux’s Mardi Gras Indian group. Recently however, HBO, the station that has produced both The Wire and Treme, has cancelled Treme after only three-and-a-half seasons. (Treme still outruns K-Ville, though, Fox TV’s post-Katrina crime series, which did not even live through its first season.) Public ratings have been insuﬃcient, apparently, and reviews have been mixed. While it is often acknowledged that Treme is a good-willed depiction of post-Katrina life in New Orleans, devoid of the usual mythical distortions, political scientist Alfred Reed Jr. has described the series as an “abysmal failure” (“Three Tremés”). According to Reed, Treme, unlike The Wire, has fallen prey to two touristic mystifications, which are central to the mechanisms of both tourism and gentrification: the notion of “neighborhood as self-contained, organic community” and the discourse of heritage tourism. Both mystifications hinge on a romanticization of cultural authenticity, and lead to a politics in which the recognition of cultural diversity is a substitute for redistribution of wealth. Taking seriously Reed’s accusation of a lack of interest in working class politics, and thus a lack in realism, on behalf of Treme, my presentation will investigate how, within its realist framework, Treme’s specific refractions of class—which is constantly and consciously addressed in the series— work to mystify and obscure social relations, and whether we can say there are elements that are salvageable from this “abysmal failure.”
Katie Carmichael Ohio State University Where Y’at Since the Storm?: Linguistic Effects of Hurricane Katrina in Greater New Orleans In the wake of a natural disaster, one consequence may be the temporary or permanent displacement of residents. In the case of Hurricane Katrina, there has been a diaspora of New Orleanians throughout the United States and beyond—although a remarkable number of locals have returned to Greater New Orleans, whether rebuilding their original homes or settling in a new area of the metropolitan region. The eﬀects of such an upheaval have changed the fabric of the city geographically and demographically, but there have also been cultural and linguistic eﬀects. This paper explores the latter two dimensions in terms of pre-Katrina residents of St. Bernard Parish who returned to Greater New Orleans (GNO) after the hurricane. Pre-Katrina St. Bernard Parish consisted of a collection of suburban towns to the east of New Orleans, predominantly populated by white, working class residents (Lasley 2012). Before the storm, these towns were the locus for the local speech variety called Yat after the common New Orleanian greeting, “Where y’at?” (Lemotte & Willems 1985; Mucciaccio 2009; Eble 2000). However, since Hurricane Katrina inundated the parish in 2005 and displaced the majority of the residents, the status of this speech variety is unclear. Although some St. Bernardians returned to the parish following the storm, many others relocated permanently to other areas of GNO, such as the wealthy suburban towns on the Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain. In this study, I examine the speech of returners, or those who returned to St. Bernard to rebuild, and relocators, those who relocated to elsewhere in GNO to determine the linguistic eﬀects of Hurricane Katrina. My analysis focuses on the use of locally salient Yat pronunciations, such as r-lessness (pronouncing car as “cah”) and vowel quality (pronouncing bought as “bawt” or bad as “byad”) by 57 returners and relocators in recorded interviews collected in 2012. Past research has demonstrated that when speakers move to an area with diﬀerent dialect features, they accommodate to some extent to the new dialect (Munro et al 1999; Straw & Patrick 2007; Hazen & Hamilton 2008; Nycz 2011). However, the majority of these studies examined voluntary movement by smaller groups of families or individuals, in contrast with the (in many cases, involuntary) migration en masse as a result of a natural disaster. The current study thus informs how such upheavals aﬀect the linguistic situation following a natural disaster, while providing useful information about the status of post-Katrina recovery in GNO. Preliminary analysis suggests that it is not merely returner or relocator status that predicts whether a given speaker will use the Yat pronunciations, but a complex constellation of factors such as their experiences outside of St. Bernard before the storm, their attitudes towards being from St. Bernard, and their orientation towards their new and old homes. These results indicate that the level of integration of the refugees to their new environment is reflected (and perhaps even actively constructed) through their language use.
Demetrius L. Eudell Wesleyan University Scapegoating Katrina or Toward a Systemic Viewpoint? This presentation takes its point of departure from the conceptualization informing the provocative set of essays in the collection, There is No Such Thing as a Natural Disaster: Race, Class and Hurricane Katrina. In this vein, I shall examine the pre-conditions that governed the responses to Hurricane Katrina not only at the level of the state and federal governments, but as well as those of the mainstream U.S. media. I shall put forth the argument that the abandoned residents of New Orleans, who were predominantly Black and poor, had already been abandoned historically, not only by the legacy of slavery, but equally by that of emancipation, to wit: by the policies that were put in place to eﬀect the “transition to freedom” in the wake of the U.S. Civil War. Throughout history, many societies have enslaved people from both within and outside of their polities. Yet, only in the post-1492 Americas, where slavery would be uniquely defined in terms of race, would there occur a concerted movement for the abolition of this institution. Despite this process, rather than the former slaves being given suﬃcient consideration to be better incorporated into the then changing United States, policies would be put in place to circumscribe their opportunities to better their social conditions and generally to improve their lives. These included restrictive policies with respect to voting, transportation, education, and housing. Indeed, the iconic and paradigmatic statute of Jim Crow America, Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) which codified the U.S. apartheid policy of “separate but equal” resulted from a lawsuit originally brought by citizens of New Orleans to challenge state policies of segregation. As a law-like consequence, these policies of legalized diﬀerential treatment would create a situation of poverty that would logically come to take the institutionalized place of slavery, the preceding juridical policy of racial hierarchy of which poverty is but a transumed version. In this context, it can be argued that, despite the tremendous changes that would occur in the wake of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, Black and poor people in New Orleans (and beyond) still often find themselves struggling to eke out a living. Hurricane Katrina only revealed the depth of these unresolved issues, and therefore brought more clearly into focus the brutal nature of the present ordering of our society. Thus, rather than “scapegoating” Katrina as a natural disaster, we must attempt to come to terms with it as an omen of what is to come if we do not address this ordering. Otherwise, we shall be compelled to wait for the next disaster—economic, military, political, or ecological (or a combination thereof)—in which we shall find ourselves scrambling once again for an explanation, and in the end shall only be able to recycle the same vacuous liberal pieties that currently define much of our public discourses.
Florian Freitag Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz Post-Katrina, Postcolonial, Postslavery: Discursive Strategies in Rosalyn Story’s Wading Home (2010) In the 2010 collection Katrina’s Imprint (ed. Roland Anglin et al.), several critics identify Hurricane Katrina and the flooding of New Orleans as a signifier of the persistent interconnection between racism and mobility in the U.S. Situating both the failure of Black mobility during the catastrophe as well as the forced diaspora of African-American New Orleanians in the aftermath of the flood within the larger history of the race-inflected regulation of Black movement and mobility under the plantation regime, these critics argue that the true significance of Katrina lies in its exposure of the continued workings of plantation slavery’s colonial power structures in 21st-century urban America. Rosalyn Story’s Wading Home: A Novel of New Orleans (2010) examines the legacy of the plantation regime in the post-Katrina Southern cityscape by telling the story of an over seventy-year-old Black Tremé resident who, trapped at the Convention Center after the storm, attempts to hitchhike his way out of the flooded city to his cousin’s property in upper Louisiana, a former plantation that has been in the hands of the family since before the Civil War. Hence, the novel simultaneously depicts the plantation as the historical origin site of a racist power system that continues to resonate in the contemporary urban South, and as a place of identification and a home for Southern African Americans. This Janusfaced conceptualization of the plantation, however, radically dissociates the plantation regime from the Southern rural space: while New Orleans is identified as the (new) ideological epicenter of white racism and its colonial structures of Black (im)mobility, forced displacement, and exile, Wading Home presents rural Louisiana as a truly postcolonial space that even before the formal demise of slavery expelled the racist ideology it helped to create. This idealization of the rural South constitutes one of the seemingly more problematic aspects of Wading Home, as it appears to inscribe the novel into the literary tradition of nostalgic portrayals of the antebellum South. By turning the genealogical history of the African-American-owned plantation into a central aspect of the plot, however, Wading Home rather draws on the tradition of what George B. Handley in his eponymous study has identified as “postslavery literature.” According to Handley, postslavery fictions focus on genealogy and family history in order to move “away from a fixation on the more formal manifestations of slavery and into the more complex social relations before and after its legal abolition” (2000: 3). As in other postslavery fictions, the family tree in Wading Home rectifies the exclusionary genealogies with which white plantocracies sought to produce a clear “line of descent and of inheritance from white father to white son” (2000: 4). While focusing on the discursive strategies of postcoloniality and postslavery in Wading Home’s depiction of post-Katrina rural and urban Louisiana, this paper will also try to find connections between Story’s novel and other U.S. fictions
about “natural” disasters and their social repercussions such as John Steinbeck’s portrayal of the Dust Bowl in The Grapes of Wrath.
Kornelia Freitag Ruhr-Universität Bochum “Down in the Treme,“ or Televising Disaster in the New Millenium David Simon and Eric Overmyer’s acclaimed HBO drama series Treme tells the story of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. As pointed out by the producers, the critics, and New Orleans citizens (including The TimesPicayune writer Dave Walker), the show strives for and achieves great realism by showcasing the rich musical and festive tradition of New Orleans, by including local residents, writers, and consultants in the production and in the cast, as well as by referencing the life of New Orleans natives in the fictional fates of some of the protagonists. After the first overwhelmingly positive reactions to the show, also criticism was raised concerning, among other things, “formulaic” and problem-belittling plot lines, an imbalance of black and white stories, or the tendency to cater to the very touristic gaze the show itself denounces. While the praise as well as the criticism can certainly be justified, they seem to indicate less an oversight or an unwillingness on the side of the producers to “get things right” but more the possibilities and restrictions of “quality TV” and the expectations of the viewers. In my paper I will concentrate on the ways in which the first season of Treme negotiates the representation of struggling citizens and the material impact of the storm. My working thesis is that Treme is, in fact, most interesting and successful in the strategies that counter its realist techniques which, inadvertently, invite the touristic gaze by reducing complex events to human interest stories and the staging of local music and parades. In surrealist sounds, images, and montage techniques, as well as unmotivated plot twists the celebrated realism and the touristic appeal are time and again undercut. What can be glimpsed in this representation of the city after Katrina are the workings of what Deleuze and Guattari have called an “assemblage” and Jane Bennett an “ad hoc groupin[g] of diverse elements, of vibrant materials of all sorts” (23), “an interfolding network of humanity and non-humanity” (31) that is neither to be conquered by heroic individual acts, nor without them. Bennett, Jane. Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Durham: Duke UP, 2010. Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1987.
Courtney George Columbus State University Revisiting Place, the Memorial, and the Historical in Natasha Trethewey’s Beyond Katrina and Tom Piazza’s Why New Orleans Matters In 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast region, with far-reaching consequences that are still unresolved today. Since the day after the storm, a rising tide of narratives about Katrina and its aftermath have emerged in popular culture. In one of the most moving narratives, Beyond Katrina, U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey claims her meditation on the Gulf Coast to be “a story about a story” and wonders how memories of Katrina will be “inscribed on the physical landscape as well as the landscape of our cultural memory. I wonder at the competing narratives: What will be remembered, what forgotten? What dominant narrative is now emerging?” (11). In what Trethewey deems “competing narratives,” individual stories become intertwined with the social and political, revealing a larger cultural history of the South with which we are all too familiar: a story of race and class injustice. For instance, in the immediate television coverage surrounding Katrina, the media capitalized on the poverty and racism still present in the South. Particularly, by exploiting images of mostly poor African Americans at the Superdome and the Convention Center, and the “mass looting” that took place in New Orleans, the world was made to see—or perhaps to remember—that legacy of the South associated with slavery and the historical oppressions of minorities. However, some people chose to see, in these prevalent images, not the consequences of social injustices but instead individuals reduced to animals, who were then deemed personally irresponsible “refugees.” These conflicting narratives (our cultural memories) of societal oppression and individual blame are revived in the continually emerging popular representations of Katrina. Significantly, popular representations of the storm and its aftermath also suggest more complex narratives of a global South working together, and sometimes at odds with those national narratives that stereotype the South and its people, to overcome the cultural legacy of race and class oppression. In studies of a tragedy like Hurricane Katrina, the very nature of who constructs narratives and how we construct narratives should be questioned, specifically the exploitative aspects of attempting to tell others’ stories (of those who were both lost in and survived Katrina). This presentation considers Natasha Trethewey’s Beyond Katrina and Tom Piazza’s Why New Orleans Matters beside more historical or political texts like Douglas Brinkley’s The Great Deluge, Jed Hornby’s Breach of Faith, and Michael Eric Dyson’s Come Hell or High Water. While all of these (mostly non-fiction) works take a critical approach not only to the events during Katrina but also the perceived aftermath of the storm, Trethewey and Piazza more fully intertwine their individual memories with larger cultural memories of the Mississippi Gulf Coast and New Orleans, showing how memory influences and creates history. This presentation draws from these popular works,
in conjunction with theories of cultural and collective memory, to begin asking larger questions about how we consider southern culture and history. Most specifically, how can narratives about Katrina and its aftermath lead us to broader narratives about the South? How do narratives of place and dis-place-ment aﬀect these memories? How does the imagined region interact with the imagined nation interact with the imagined globe?
Kate Parker Horigan Indiana University Documenting Disaster: Unsettlement and Uplift in Trouble the Water Stories and images of suﬀering during Hurricane Katrina saturated American public discourse in 2005. Katrina and its fallout in New Orleans have been well documented as historical events, and in the years since the hurricane, environmental and sociological studies have emerged to explain what went wrong. Remaining under-theorized, however, are the fundamental failures of communication that characterize this catastrophe—especially the ease with which some stories have been accepted and others ignored. My research brings together representations of the storm’s darkest moments, narrated by eyewitnesses and then shared in a broad spectrum of genres and rhetorical situations. Examining contexts of production, circulation, and reception, I demonstrate that the ways in which survivors’ personal stories are shared with larger audiences can either confirm or confound stereotypical representations of communities to which the narrators belong. Furthermore, I show how survivors contest those discourses that inscribe their realities and that have material consequences for their immediate and ongoing recovery. In particular, this paper examines one example of a text that adapts personal narratives for public distribution, Carl Deal and Tia Lessin’s 2009 documentary film Trouble the Water. I explore the film’s unique documentary techniques, particularly the inclusion of survivor Kim Roberts’s own footage, shot during Katrina on a handheld camera. My discussion highlights those scenes where Kim’s role as documentarian is foregrounded, as well as those moments in the film where she and her companions express their awareness about the value of their story and its likelihood of circulating among particular kinds of audiences. Through my analysis of these scenes, I show how the filmmakers in Trouble the Water implement Dominick LaCapra’s “empathic unsettlement,” disrupting the easy empathy that often accompanies reception of personal narratives associated with trauma. As a result, the filmmakers successfully integrate Katrina survivors’ own critiques of the discourses which typically represent them. However, I also point out that the film’s feel-good conclusion indulges in a dominant narrative of individualistic uplift, especially evoking “racial uplift” narratives rooted in the industrial educational philosophies of Booker T. Washington and others in late 19th century America. This conclusion, while potentially aiding in the film’s commercial success, finally
undermines the powerful work it is otherwise performing: it appeases audiences troubled by the film’s more uncomfortable moments. This research examines Katrina in a new light, focusing on the representational tactics of survivors and the processes by which their narratives are recognized or rejected. Beyond that, this study contributes to current theoretical understandings about how diﬀerent communicative contexts and rhetorical situations shape the knowledge that is created about trauma and recovery. It is my contention that texts conveying the eyewitness accounts of survivors have an obligation to include narrators’ critical engagement with the processes by which their stories are being collected and shared. However, I also point out how those texts that find widespread popularity and commercial success, Trouble the Water among them, tend to be those that avoid this confrontation and opt instead to reproduce their audience’s expectations.
René Philipp Kastner Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz How Civilian Disaster Volunteers Saved New Orleans: Civil Commitment in the Absence of Governmental Responsibility Research has shown that in every disaster situation a lot of needed assistance is provided by informal helpers, who are either part of the aﬀected community or converge from outside the disaster area. After Hurricane Katrina such civilian disaster volunteers became particularly important for disaster relief in the Greater New Orleans Area, as the US government failed to provide adequate support for the victims of the storm. This paper focuses on the role of converging volunteers during first response and especially recovery. It explores the multiple tasks they fulfilled and how they were organized by third sector organizations to deploy them eﬃciently. In this regard the paper also highlights the relevance of nongovernmental and faith-based organizations (FBOs) in compensating the lack of governmental disaster-management. The analysis is based on several guided interviews with experts working for diﬀerent third-sector organizations, who were managing civilian disaster volunteers throughout the disaster relief process of Hurricane Katrina. Surveyed in 2009, the interviewees were also able to provide a lot of information about how the voluntary relief eﬀorts had developed since the storm. Even though the chosen organizations were mainly situated in the city of New Orleans, a few interviews were also conducted in neighboring parishes to explore diﬀerences between the city and its surrounding area in dealing with the catastrophe. In this context the paper focuses on St Bernard, a parish Southeast of New Orleans, as it was hit particularly hard by the storm for lying outside the former levee system. The experts revealed a broad variety of important tasks carried out by civilian disaster volunteers throughout disaster relief. They made substantial contributions by helping to run shelters, preparing meals for the victims,
managing donated goods and rebuilding destroyed houses during long-term recovery. Although there were some unorganized eﬀorts, like search-and-rescue activities right after the hurricane had struck, most of the voluntary activities were realized under guidance of diﬀerent non-profit organizations. Thus they were crucial to control what Allen H. Barton (1969) called the “informal mass assault” after disastrous events. They housed and coordinated helpers converging from numerous other US-states and even from other countries. Furthermore, they often provided necessary training for certain tasks and hired professionals to instruct the volunteers, as the majority of them was not suﬃciently skilled for such events. In this way, problems often articulated in context with spontaneous volunteerism in disaster situations could be minimized. Finally, the paper also outlines that faith-based groups and organizations played the most important role for the recovery of the city and its surroundings. Not only did local churches try their best to help the victims of the storm, but also churches from all over the country sent thousands of volunteers to the Greater New Orleans Area. In this context the paper discusses the great dimensions of religiously motivated disaster relief as an American exceptionality. In summary, the disaster relief process of Hurricane Katrina has shown the enormous capabilities of civilian disaster volunteers in combination with non-profit organizations to support or even substitute oﬃcial units. After all, it can be stated that New Orleans would not have been restored without the extensive help of those volunteers.
Susanne Leikam Universität Regensburg Exposing Narratives of Disaster in the Memorial Landscape of Hurricane Katrina In 2007, Times-Picayune columnist Chris Rose wondered how many years it might take to fully grasp the complete scope of Hurricane Katrina and to tie the plethora of diﬀerent individual experiences into coherent narratives. While this process is still ongoing (cf. Campbell 2013), the first public commemorative sites— each presenting its very own interpretation of Hurricane Katrina—have sprung up, shaping the memorial landscape of the Gulf Coast and beyond. Besides specific political and cultural idiosyncrasies, every site of remembrance also puts forward a distinct understanding of Hurricane Katrina. By highlighting particular aspects over others and relegating yet others to the background (cf. Goﬀman; MacLachlan/ Reid; Wolf/Bernhart), these various framings also entail responses to issues such as the following: Which circumstances precisely presented the disaster? The shortterm natural phenomenon of the hurricane, the preexisting, long-term structural and political inequalities, or the governmental failures to address the structural disparities and revive the Gulf Coast, and especially New Orleans, sustainingly and evenly? Or was it rather a combination of the scenarios above? And finally,
how likely is a reoccurrence of the circumstances that formed the disaster and will technology be suﬃcient to predict/control the impact of further strong hurricanes? These narratives of disaster are important not only because they show how what was perceived as a disruption of ordinary life is meaningfully integrated into specific worldviews but even more so because they highly influence the vulnerability to and the urban/emergency planning for future disasters. My paper intends to investigate two of the oﬃcial Hurricane Katrina Memorials in New Orleans and two rather informal commemorative projects in regard to their treatment of the narratives of disaster. Built on the grounds of Charity Hospital Cemetery, the New Orleans Hurricane Katrina Memorial employs the shape of a hurricane’s satellite image, which—while it memorializes Katrina through one of the standard conventions of visualizing hurricanes—emerges as problematic, for example, not only because it puts forward a version of the hurricane that renders humans invisible but also since it promotes technophilia and a sense that technological means will increasingly be able to control extreme weather phenomena (cf. Sturken 2006). With its design featuring a half-finished house surrounded by empty chairs, the memorial instigated by the New Orleans Lower Ninth Ward Neighborhood Council, on the other hand, uses a very diﬀerent approach and places the human experience at its very heart. While the project was meant to signify the “indomitable spirit of the survivors,” it at the same time freezes the process of reconstruction permanently and thus emerges as an adequate memorialization of the countless political and administrative failures stalling the reconstruction/repopulation of the city. The disaster narratives of these formal sites of commemoration will be contextualized by very diﬀerent approaches of remembrance such as the marine-themed tree sculptures (e.g. the Hurricane Katrina Catastrophe Trees in Biloxi) and Jana Napoli’s Floodwall project, which—regardless of the appraisal they meet—prove challenging through their transient nature, failing to enduringly point to the region’s vulnerability even after the last surge of discussion of Katrina has subsided.
Delphine Letort Université du Le Mans Serialization of the Documentary: Telling the Story of Katrina in Spike Lee’s When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (2006) and Its Sequel If God Is Willing And Da Creek Don’t Rise (2011) This paper will focus on the eﬀects of serialization on the two 4-hour documentary seasons directed by Spike Lee for HBO. When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (2006) and its sequel If God Is Willing And Da Creek Don’t Rise (2011) investigate the impact of Katrina’s landslide on New Orleans and its aftermath. While the first part of the documentary series retraces the events that took place in 2005, shaping an alternative version to the media’s reports of the catastrophe, the second part allows Lee to assess reconstruction progress
over the span of five years. We will consider how the serial narrative construction aﬀects the documentary as a genre, allowing the filmmaker to grasp an overview of New Orleans’ racial and political structure. Serialization aﬀects characterization, arousing anxiety as to the life of the people whose interviews are interspersed throughout the documentary. Last but not least, we will analyze the political discourse produced in the series that investigates the link between the past and the present. Serialization enhances dramatization throughout the documentary series, underlining the “creative treatment of actuality” which undergirds Lee’s appropriation of the genre.
Aischa Niedballa Ruhr-Universität Bochum Patterns of the Past: The Racial Politics in When the Levees Broke That the American federal government’s failure to eﬃciently and timely react to Hurricane Katrina ultimately proved that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people”—as US rapper Kanye West’s controversial quote states— also appears to be one crucial message and standpoint of Spike Lee’s 2006 documentary When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts. This four hour long documentary film deals with the devastation caused by the 2005 storm, the breach of the levees and subsequent flood, focusing on the severe eﬀects these events had on the lives of New Orleans’ residents. When the Levees Broke does not only feature Kanye West as an interviewee but gives voice to nearly 100 people of diverse backgrounds including engineers, politicians, journalists, historians and inhabitants of diﬀerent parts of New Orleans and the region, many of whom share West’s position. In fact, the very subject—namely the neglect of mainly African American and poor residents of New Orleans during, after and even before Katrina by the Bush administration—is depicted and explored in much detail. This is, for instance, achieved by addressing the despair of those black New Orleanians who feel that in the midst of disaster, death, devastation and disease, they were left alone by their government. However, When the Levees Broke goes even further than simply claiming that African Americans were treated unjustly in the aftermath of Katrina. The documentary presumes that these racial politics at work are indeed deeply rooted in the United States’ history of racial inequalities. Thus, it constantly and deliberately draws comparisons between the conditions of New Orleanian African Americans in the aftermath of the hurricane to that of African Americans throughout America’s racist past. In other words, direct connections are made between the plight, struggle and hardship of those predominantly black and/ or poor citizens of New Orleans who were directly impaired by the storm, the levee and government failures, and the experience of Blacks throughout slavery, segregation and the Civil Rights Movement. Hence, for example, the evacuation of families who then found themselves
dispersed all over the USA and separated from family members is compared to slave auctions. The atmosphere in the Superdome—when songs that are reminiscent of so-called freedom songs were sung by its desperate occupants— is described by an interviewee as to resemble the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement. Moreover, interviewees give first hand accounts of how they were stuck in buildings and neglected by FEMA, which made them feel as though they had lost their civil rights and American citizen status. Adding to this sentiment is the mainstream media’s terminology, which refers to the evacuated people as “refugees.” It is also the media’s coverage of alleged looting, violence and crime that alludes to stereotypical racist descriptions of supposedly dangerous savagelike black males, which have long existed in the US. How, thus, with the use of which stylistic devices and tools, Spike Lee achieves this comparison, and how relevant and plausible the points the documentary makes are, shall be analyzed in this paper.
Cyprian Piskurek Technische Universität Dortmund Dance Back from the Grave: Musical Responses to Hurricane Katrina Among the various representations of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, musical responses occupy a special place. On the one hand, the vast number of songs written across the whole spectrum of musical genres testifies to the centrality of New Orleans within the music scene; on the other hand, telethons like A Concert for Hurricane Relief presented popular music as a powerful and poignant form of dealing with the devastating storm and flood. Whether these songs attacked the Bush government for its inaction, or whether they cherished the city and mourned the victims, popular music articulated the emergent structures of feeling after the catastrophe. While songs responding to Katrina were often isolated or individual tracks, there were also artists who recorded complete albums influenced by the event. These were no concept albums, yet—as I would like to argue—they implicitly responded to the hurricane in the extended format, even when apparently addressing other topics. In my presentation I shall discuss two such responses by two befriended artists: Marc Cohn’s Join the Parade (2007) and Jackson Browne’s Time the Conqueror (2008). While Browne and Cohn are both well-known artists, and Browne’s “Where Were You” was part of the Relief concert, in terms of popularity these albums seem to be marginal responses compared to Katrina releases by, for example, Green Day and U2, which gained more airplay. Still, I am convinced that these are central representations of post-Katrina structures of feeling. Furthermore, a discussion of these ‘texts’ can hopefully contribute to a revaluation of the album as a distinctive art form, especially in terms of cultural politics.
Philipp Siepmann Ruhr-Universität Bochum Natural Hazards and Human Vulnerability in Dave Eggers’s Zeitoun: A Concept for Teaching Hurricane Katrina in the EFL Classroom Dave Eggers’s non-fictional narrative Zeitoun tells the story of Syrian-born Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a well-to-do painter and contractor who decides to stay in New Orleans and endure Hurricane Katrina to take care of his business. After the storm, while roaming his neighborhood in a canoe to help friends and strangers, he is arrested and incarcerated in a provisional jail. In prison, he learns that he is suspected of being a terrorist. Zeitoun’s story is a powerful reminder of how the vulnerability of a person or a social group to natural hazards depends on factors such as race and class membership. Furthermore, it reveals how the cultural politics of the War on Terror, which has put Muslims in the United States in a marginalized position, has aﬀected the crisis management of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Zeitoun thus yields striking evidence that the vulnerability to natural hazards has significant cultural implications. In my presentation, I will argue that Zeitoun provides a fruitful base for teaching both recent U.S. history and cultural critique of the idea of ‘natural’ catastrophes in an advanced EFL (English as a Foreign Language) classroom, as it makes the complex interplay of geographical, social, political and cultural dimensions comprehensible to students. Integrating concepts of ecodidactics and cultural studies, I will propose a classroom unit on Hurricane Katrina that focuses on the concepts of (natural) hazard and (social) vulnerability, and links a modern natural science view of natural hazards to a cultural studies perspective on the cultural implications of social vulnerability. Ecodidactics has entered the discourse of TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) only recently in the wake of a growing emphasis on global education in EFL curricula. An ecodidactic take on Hurricane Katrina can foster students’ critical environmental awareness by providing a solid background knowledge about meteorological hazards like hurricanes and by pointing out man-made factors that increase the risk of material damage and human losses, ranging from urban planning to global warming. The ecodidactic approach is complemented by an analysis of the cultural dimension of Hurricane Katrina, using Zeitoun’s case as an example. This includes the discussion of racial relations and social inequality in the United States, with a particular interest in the situation of Muslims in America after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The focus will be on the fact that some social groups were aﬀected by the storm and the failure of the crisis management more severely than others. Eggers’s novel provides more than just a common thread for the unit. It does not only enable students to reconstruct the course of events around Katrina and give them an idea of the desperate situation of the inhabitants of New Orleans after the storm, it also allows a glimpse at the personal dimension of an otherwise quite remote issue and thus will help students relate to it.
Miriam Strube Universität Paderborn Of Beasts and Girls: Filming Katrina as a Magic Realist Tale The story of the 2012 film Beasts of the Southern Wild follows the young girl, Hushpuppy, and what happens when a Katrina-like storm hits the fictional place called Bathtub, which is located beyond the levees that keep the delta dry. The arc of the story is the confluence of Hushpuppy’s father’s illness with Bathtub’s flooding. With his film first-time director Benh Zeitlin, who made the movie in conjunction with a New Orleans-based collective called Court 13, presents a movie that does not simply ignore the usual rules, it rather invents its own style of storytelling. In the main part of my presentation, I argue that Beasts uses the mode of magic realism known from literature, originally from a Latin American and postcolonial background. In combining these two levels, Zeitlin uses what Anne Hegerfeldt points out in the title to her article on magical realism, namely “the lie that tells the truth.” In a second step, I also reflect on the role of the artist or scholar who screens junk, using the double meaning of screening analyzed by Stanley Cavell’s philosophy in The World Viewed.
Keynotes Lynnell L. Thomas University of Massachusetts, Boston Desire and Disaster: Touring Race and Class in Post-Katrina New Orleans By the eve of the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, collective dissent over the slow, uneven and inequitable recovery was displaced by a blitz of favorable media coverage that refashioned a tale of national disaster into a fable of American resilience and rebirth. This paper explores how events, such as the election of a white mayor, the New Orleans Saints’ NFL Super Bowl victory, the critical acclaim and local fandom surrounding the launch of the HBO television series Treme, BP’s tourism promotional campaign following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and the positive national attention generated by the city’s neoliberal solutions to public education and aﬀordable housing relied on and reclaimed the racialized tourist tropes central to New Orleans’s place identity.
The city’s post-Katrina tourism narrative advances an idea of recovery — manifested in a robust economy, a smaller urban footprint, higher performing public schools, well-maintained housing stock, safe neighborhoods, and an apolitical “gumbo pot” multiculturalism—that obscures painful post-Katrina realities, such as the overreliance on a vulnerable tourism industry, the displacement of the city’s poorest residents, the educational abandonment of disabled and special needs students, inadequate aﬀordable housing, blighted neighborhoods, increasing rates of violent crime, class disparities, and racial inequities. As the script of New Orleans’ recovery is being written, the city is poised to emerge as an international symbol of rebirth, renewal, and racial unity or a harbinger of the systemic social, economic, and ecological disasters that plague all U.S. metropolitan areas. The nation—indeed the world—is watching (and touring) to see which symbol will win out.
Lewis Watts University of California, Santa Cruz Picturing New Orleans: How Documenting the Culture and People Both Revealed and Obscured the Narrative of Place I have been photographing in Louisiana since 1994. I was drawn to New Orleans because of its unique colonial, cultural, architectural, environmental and racial history. It fit into my more general investigation of the “Cultural Landscape” in the African American diaspora. Many of the people who migrated to California during WWII came from Louisiana and they brought with them many cultural and aesthetic practices. I wanted to look at the source and compare and contrast eﬀects of migration in both source and destination. I fell in love with the look, smell, taste and sound of the city but at the same time noticed the many contradictions and ties to the old American south along with traces of Africa, Europe, the Caribbean and South America. I was supposed to be an artist in residence at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in 2005 and then Hurricane Katrina hit. I was able to get into the city 6 weeks after the storm and that experience ended up opening many more layers of the place than I had experienced in the previous decade. When I first arrived the city was empty and I realized how much of my attraction to New Orleans had to do with the people rather than place. My book New Orleans Suite co-authored with my colleague Eric Porter traces the cultural practices that existed before the storm and the eﬀorts by many of the “cultural workers” to make sure that the music and ritual survived in the wake of eﬀorts to marginalize and commercialize traditions. In my presentation I will show and talk about my experience navigating through the layers of culture, crime, politics, food, environment, art and music that are unique to New Orleans and which mark its response to disaster and triumph both in terms of the environment, economy and the social fabric.
Bury the Hatchet Bury The Hatchet is a portrait of three Mardi Gras Indian “Big Chiefs.” These New Orleans men are the descendants of runaway slaves who were taken in by the Native Americans of the Louisiana bayous. These African-American tribes were once plagued by violent gang-style clashes. Now, every year during Mardi Gras, they take to the backstreets of New Orleans, dressed in elaborate Native American-influenced costumes that they sew over the course of the year. Where they once fought with hatchets, they now battle over which Chief has the best suit. Following the Mardi Gras Indians over the course of five years—before, during and after Hurricane Katrina—filmmaker Aaron Walker explores their art and philosophies, as well as their struggles within their communities: harassment by the police, violence amongst themselves, gentrification of their neighborhoods, disinterested youth, old age and natural disaster.
USA 2010 Written, directed, and produced by Aaron Walker Distributor: 7th Art Releasing
Photos Lewis Watts Conference Venue Kulturzentrum Bahnhof Langendreer and Endstation Kino Wallbaumweg 108 D-44894 Bochum Conference Organizers Simon Dickel Evangelia Kindinger Ruhr-Universit채t Bochum Assistant Anne Potjans Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
It has been nearly eight years since Hurricane Katrina destroyed large parts of the US Golf region and caused a breach of the New Orleans le...
Published on Nov 6, 2013
It has been nearly eight years since Hurricane Katrina destroyed large parts of the US Golf region and caused a breach of the New Orleans le...