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.
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
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
back to social theory