This week marks the 10 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. In remembrance, we take a look at the books and journal articles we’ve published on that historic event.
Markets of Sorrow, Labors of Faith is an ethnographic account of long-term recovery in post-Katrina New Orleans. It is also a sobering exploration of the privatization of vital social services under market-driven governance. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, public agencies subcontracted disaster relief to private companies that turned the humanitarian work of recovery into lucrative business. These enterprises profited from the very suffering that they failed to ameliorate, producing a second-order disaster that exacerbated inequalities based on race and class and leaving residents to rebuild almost entirely on their own.
Filled with the often desperate voices of residents who returned to New Orleans, Markets of Sorrow, Labors of Faith describes the human toll of disaster capitalism and the affect economy it has produced. While for-profit companies delayed delivery of federal resources to returning residents, faith-based and nonprofit groups stepped in to rebuild, compelled by the moral pull of charity and the emotional rewards of volunteer labor. Adams traces the success of charity efforts, even while noting an irony of neoliberalism, which encourages the very same for-profit companies to exploit these charities as another market opportunity. In so doing, the companies profit not once but twice on disaster.
Most of the narratives packaged for New Orleans’s many tourists cultivate a desire for black culture—jazz, cuisine, dance—while simultaneously targeting black people and their communities as sources and sites of political, social, and natural disaster. In Desire and Disaster in New Orleans: Tourism, Race, and Historical Memory, the Americanist and New Orleans native Lynnell L. Thomas delves into the relationship between tourism, cultural production, and racial politics. She carefully interprets the racial narratives embedded in tourism websites, travel guides, business periodicals, and newspapers; the thoughts of tour guides and owners; and the stories told on bus and walking tours as they were conducted both before and after Katrina. She describes how, with varying degrees of success, African American tour guides, tour owners, and tourism industry officials have used their own black heritage tours and tourism-focused businesses to challenge exclusionary tourist representations. Taking readers from the Lower Ninth Ward to the White House, Thomas highlights the ways that popular culture and public policy converge to create a mythology of racial harmony that masks a long history of racial inequality and structural inequity.
The most recent issue of the minnesota review includes a special section entitled, “Katrina Ten Years Later.” This cluster of essays focuses on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina including the measures that could have been taken to prevent the massive devastation caused by it and the immediate and long-term responses by the government, private industry, and civil society.
Contributors to the section ask how Katrina left a permanent mark on the Gulf South and the larger national imaginary, whether we’ve learned any lessons, and what actions and policies we’ve adopted to mitigate against future disasters. Gaurav Desai argues: “Haunting though the images may be, the flooded homes and emergency rescues from rooftops were not the only impact Katrina had—it altered fundamental social contracts in cities such as New Orleans, from public education to public housing. It also awakened a new activism focused on issues ranging from calls for better levee protection to addressing the loss of wetlands in coastal communities.” Topics include real estate in post-Katrina New Orleans, ghost music in the Ninth Ward, organization and individualization in urban recovery, and Vietnamese Americans in New Orleans.
A forthcoming issue of Public Culture, “Climate Change and the Future of Cities: Mitigation, Adaptation, and Social Change on an Urban Planet,” volume 28 and issue 2, addresses climate change in urban areas. Contributors hypothesize that the best techniques for safeguarding cities and critical infrastructure systems from the threats related to climate change have multiple benefits, strengthening networks that promote health and prosperity during ordinary times as well as mitigating damage during disasters. Sign up for electronic table-of-contents alerts for Public Culture to be notified when the issue is available in Spring 2016.
Further reading on Hurricane Katrina from Duke University Press journals:
“‘It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp… with… a Whole Lot of Bitches Jumpin’ Ship’: Navigating Black Politics in the Wake of Katrina,” by Michael Ralph in Public Culture, volume 21 and issue 2.
“Rebuilding the Past: Health Care Reform in Post-Katrina Louisiana,” by Mary A. Clark in Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, volume 35 and issue 5.
“World History according to Katrina,” by Wai Chee Dimock in differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, volume 19 and issue 2.