[URBANTH-L]ANN: Hurricane Katrina in Cultural Context

Angela Jancius acjancius at ysu.edu
Sun Sep 3 16:20:41 EDT 2006

From: Casey O'Donnell <odonnc at rpi.edu>

Hurricane Katrina in Cultural Context

In the August 2006 issue of Cultural Anthropology,   American Studies 
scholar George Lipsitz writes of how policies and attitudes set in play long 
before Katrina lashed New Orleans continue to destroy the communities that 
have given the city so much of its culture and identity.   The article and 
related material is available through the journal's new website, 

Lipsitz's essay examines the underlying "social warrant" that left the city 
exposed to flood waters, abandonment and greed. In his essay the University 
of California at Santa Barbara professor of Black Studies narrates the 
history of the city as a site of suffering and joy, slavery and freedom, 
poverty and resourcefulness. The demolished neighborhoods he remembers 
endure as the source of counter-memory not only for New Orleans' African 
American citizens but also for everyone who has wanted to see beyond the 
image pushed by developers and politicians of the city as a bawdy theme 

      In analyzing the strategies that seem destined to turn New Orleans 
over to such investors and politicians, Lipstiz makes an argument that the 
same forms of privatization that have been pursued in Iraq   now serve as a 
model for rebuilding New Orleans:

Displaced residents of the Seventh, Ninth, and Thirteenth Wards stand to 
lose much more from Hurricane Katrina than the owners of mansions, luxury 
apartments, office buildings, and hotels, because although they are resource 
poor, they were network rich. The reconstitution of those networks and the 
spaces and social relations that nurtured and sustained them should be the 
first priority of any rebuilding effort. They have the right to return, the 
right to rebuild, and the right to expect that Black dignity and humanity 
will be protected as diligently and as assiduously as white property.

Lipsitz's essay can be used in teaching courses in American Studies, Black 
Studies, Urban Studies, Cultural Theory and Public Anthropology. The essay 
is accompanied by commentary by anthropologists who were part of a panel at 
the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association held 
Washington D.C. in November 2005. The panelists included New York University 
professor Faye Ginsberg who spoke on the emblematic contributions of Lipsitz 
to American Studies; MIT professor Henry Jenkins on media, and Rensselaer 
Polytechnic Institute professor Kim Fortun on the role of scholars in 
disasters like Katrina.

The Lipsitz essay on Katrina - including an Op-Ed piece by Lipsitz in 
recognition of the first anniversary of Katrina - as well as links to the 
other essays described here can be found at www.culanth.org . 

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