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Because of You, New Orleans is Coming Back: Tourism and Recovery in Hurricane Katrina's Aftermath

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Abstract:

In the years after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, the proliferation of cultural productions, journalism, popular histories, and academic scholarship commenting on the storm, documenting the city’s progress, and representing its inhabitants has reflected and generated renewed national interest in New Orleans history and culture. The controversy over inequalities exposed by the storm triggered national discussions about race, class, gender, and age disparities; the role of government; the viability of local cultures; and the potential of grassroots activism to effect change. Viewed alongside the decimation of once-thriving metropolises throughout the country due to disinvestment, racial polarization, and unequal access to resources, New Orleans’ recovery became a litmus test for a neoliberal approach to economic development and urban revitalization. The cornerstone of this approach was a revived post-Katrina tourism industry.
By the eve of the fifth anniversary of the storm, 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 the city’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 a national symbol of either 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.
After all, New Orleans’ recovery itself has been marketed as an international tourist attraction by tourism promoters, politicians, journalists, academics, and grassroots activists who have invited various “niche markets” to aid in the city’s recovery by witnessing first-hand the effects of Katrina (disaster tourists), spending money on entertainment (leisure tourists), appreciating the city’s historic and cultural richness (cultural and heritage tourists), rebuilding houses and communities (voluntourists), or even watching television programs that portray the city and its recovery (televisual tourists). Yet, these tourist-inflected forms of activism and recovery ultimately reflect the ambivalence of neoliberalism by substituting post-civil rights racial romanticism for political, economic, and social justice in the city.
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Name: American Studies Association Annual Meeting
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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p656633_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Thomas, Lynnell. "Because of You, New Orleans is Coming Back: Tourism and Recovery in Hurricane Katrina's Aftermath" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Hilton Washington, Washington, DC, <Not Available>. 2014-12-10 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p656633_index.html>

APA Citation:

Thomas, L. "Because of You, New Orleans is Coming Back: Tourism and Recovery in Hurricane Katrina's Aftermath" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Hilton Washington, Washington, DC <Not Available>. 2014-12-10 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p656633_index.html

Publication Type: Internal Paper
Abstract: In the years after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, the proliferation of cultural productions, journalism, popular histories, and academic scholarship commenting on the storm, documenting the city’s progress, and representing its inhabitants has reflected and generated renewed national interest in New Orleans history and culture. The controversy over inequalities exposed by the storm triggered national discussions about race, class, gender, and age disparities; the role of government; the viability of local cultures; and the potential of grassroots activism to effect change. Viewed alongside the decimation of once-thriving metropolises throughout the country due to disinvestment, racial polarization, and unequal access to resources, New Orleans’ recovery became a litmus test for a neoliberal approach to economic development and urban revitalization. The cornerstone of this approach was a revived post-Katrina tourism industry.
By the eve of the fifth anniversary of the storm, 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 the city’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 a national symbol of either 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.
After all, New Orleans’ recovery itself has been marketed as an international tourist attraction by tourism promoters, politicians, journalists, academics, and grassroots activists who have invited various “niche markets” to aid in the city’s recovery by witnessing first-hand the effects of Katrina (disaster tourists), spending money on entertainment (leisure tourists), appreciating the city’s historic and cultural richness (cultural and heritage tourists), rebuilding houses and communities (voluntourists), or even watching television programs that portray the city and its recovery (televisual tourists). Yet, these tourist-inflected forms of activism and recovery ultimately reflect the ambivalence of neoliberalism by substituting post-civil rights racial romanticism for political, economic, and social justice in the city.


Similar Titles:
Segregation Matters, and So Does Integration: A Cross-Sectional Analysis of Hurricane Katrina Recovery in New Orleans

The Multicultural Perspectives of Historic Environmental Disasters that Changed America: The Mississippi Flood of 1927 and Hurricane Katrina and its Aftermath, New Orleans, Louisiana, Alabama, and the Gulf Coast, 2005

Reconstituting Community: Early Evidence from a Study of Disaster Recovery in Greater New Orleans Since Hurricane Katrina

Rethinking the Institutional Basis of Urban Development: Hurricane Katrina and Neighborhood Recovery Efforts in New Orleans


 
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