Notes on : Denzin, N. (2007) Katrina and the Collapse of Civil Society in New Orleans. Cultural Studies<=> Critical Methodologies (7) 145 – 153 DOI 10.1177/1532708606288651.

Dave Harris

We can see the events following hurricane Katrina as a sign of 'America's collective relationship to itself, to the Bush administration and to the world'. The effects can be detected as developing through events memories and [TV or press] images. It is a critical moment for Bush and we must in particular 'police' his responses. We can start with the personal biographical, stories of racism and poverty which 'connect the personal to the political, the cultural, historical' [but only via his own views] New Orleans therefore becomes 'the universal singular, the city that time forgot'

[Then lots of liberal agonising] — 'what words do we use' (146). Then snatches of information including comment and even some quantitative data showing areas of New Orleans with significant flooding — black 76%, white 18%. Then memories of the slave market.

On to a critical discourse of the federal government, the reduction of civil society by conservatism. Katrina finished the job. The erasure of barriers between Lake River and city 'symbolically and materially represented the collapse of the civic structure of the city'. The poor were left behind. 'As many as 10,000 may be dead', while Bush did not visit and government responses were slow. Several federal agencies been blamed since.

We know need a 'national conversation on the meanings of the aftermath', including a discussion of what we want cities to look like. That would require 'the full range of voices that extend across the political, economic cultural, and religious spectrum, from right to left, to green, peace, women, gays, lesbians, the poor, the old, young, all religions.'

Then some news reports from various local and national newspapers about Conservative anti-gay and lesbian reforms in Louisiana, the hiring of Halliburton to clean up, and some hectoring about how we need some utopian thinking.

There is some earlier criticism of Bush and his conservatism and cuts, 'destroying the infrastructures of civil society. They are committed to a death game, to standing by and watching human beings suffer and die. This is death by intelligent design'.

Then some 'fragments' from news — 'random' [hardly] headlines and advertisements about the effects and the remedies.

Then some memories from various people [we're not sure who — I think they are all people who wrote for the New York Times. The note says that items were collected from that newspaper between 29 August and September 15, 2005]. All of it is condemnatory of course, some appears to be eyewitness. One is paraphrased. There are mentions of suggested looting. The 'narrator' adds a bit of personal reminiscence (150 – 51) of his own memories of New Orleans. His dad was a captain of a riverboat. Now he looks back sadly to see what has been destroyed. There is also a strange episode where he happened to be in New Orleans on the night that Elvis Presley died, and with the news 'six representatives of Black America cheered. This is all I need to know today about race in America'

The reconstruction is discussed. It 'cannot be given over to Bush and his administration. Progressives must come forward'. A democratic reconstruction would 'include the development and use of workers councils, neighbourhood and local citizens groups, competitions for the design of public housing, a full-scale commitment to using minority contractors, and workers in a new Workers Public Administration program' [what if they disagreed?] These are all groups that have been exploited. The result would be a city 'that truly honours black and cajun civic culture and the rich musical heritage of its famous jazz musicians, a heritage that is been for too long exploited and used as a tourist attraction… [It] would embrace the disenfranchised and the poor. Its civic culture would transcend the sadness of those famous jazz and blues dirges'.

In 'reality' [sic] reconstruction is being organised through the usual big corporations.

Oh overall, 'a racially divided, disorganised, violent, falling – apart – at – the – seems New Orleans… Crony capitalism rules the day' (152) [13/17 references to New York Times. Nothing academic. Some material from Wall Street Journal, Nation, Daily Illini, one national radio broadcast.

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