CFP: [Graduate] The Cultures of Rebuilding in Post-Katrina New Orleans

full name / name of organization: 
Matthew Hackler
contact email: 

The Cultures of Rebuilding in Post-Katrina New Orleans
An interdisciplinary conference at the University of New Orleans and the
Louisiana State Museum, 4-6 September 2008
        Without a doubt, the response from the culture sectors in New Orleans
following Hurricane Katrina was one of the most striking narratives of the
storm. Cries from all over the country arose in the weeks after Katrina,
issuing forth clarion calls to save New Orleans’ culture, and the past two
years have seen an explosion of local, regional, and national efforts
intended to support the musical, artistic, culinary, performative, and
architectural industries. Some of these efforts have been modest individual
endeavors to preserve the city’s cultural traditions (such as the House of
Dance and Feathers in the Lower Ninth Ward); others have been large-scale
capital projects intended to revitalize entire neighborhoods (such as
Habitat for Humanity’s Musicians’ Village, or the Hyatt Jazz District).
Regardless of scale, such developments suggest that culture still is and
will continue to be one of the saving graces of New Orleans, so much so
that in May 2007 novelist Jason Berry argued in the Boston Globe that
individuals from the cultural sector such as Wynton Marsalis have shown
more leadership on the national stage in rebuilding the city than some
public officials.
Yet grave questions still remain: with one-third of New Orleans’ citizens
still in diaspora, and many of those projected to remain in their displaced
locations, what will the altered cultural landscape of the city look like?
What forms of hybridization will take place in other cities around
Americaâ€"will, as Andrei Codrescu suggested, “their food get better”? How
will New Orleans physically change after its historic architecture suffers
demolition, reinvention, and development. and what impacts will this have?
How will Mardi Gras Indians reunite their scattered tribes? What new forms
of cultural expression will arise as the floodwaters recedeâ€"sculptural,
musical, literaryâ€"and by what process(es) will they be woven into the
fabric of the city’s identity?
This conference seeks to address these issues and more, explicitly
targeting the complex interplay between culture, heritage, and the
rebuilding process. Timed to coincide with the three-year anniversary, the
conference assumes that many of the primary rebuilding efforts will have
been in place long enough to merit sustained analysis and critique. Taken
broadly, we ask: how are culture and cultural heritage transformed, in both
material and immaterial ways, following a natural disaster? How do culture
and cultural heritage contribute to the rebuilding of a society following a
disaster, and what are the processes by which culture and cultural heritage
themselves are rebuilt? Some indicative questions this conference seeks to
address are:

• How do definitions of culture, and the methodologies used to assess them,
emerge, shift, and realign within post-disaster scenarios?
• In this context, how is the distinction between past cultural expression
(loosely termed ‘heritage’) and contemporary cultural practice expressed?
• What does it mean to speak of ‘authenticity’, or the absence or loss
• How has the New Orleans ‘brand’ been developed and deployed post-K;
likewise, what are the consequences of policy initiatives such as the World
Cultural Economic Forum?
• What does it mean for a rebuilding or redevelopment plan to plan
specifically ‘for’ culture?
• How are institutional and individual claims to culture formed, sustained,
and broken?
• At what point(s) does natural or ecological heritage become cultural
heritage, and how is this boundary exposed/negotiated?
• How does ‘disaster capitalism’ affect culture and cultural heritage?
• What is the role of memory (individual, institutional, collective) in
representing culture?

500-word proposals for 20-minute papers are invited from all members of the
academic community, though priority will be given to graduate students and
junior scholars. Proposals from policymakers or practitioners are
particularly welcome; we seek to bridge more than just disciplines.
Proposals should be sent in PDF or Word format and should include full
contact information and a brief academic biography. Deadline for all
proposals is January 31, 2008. Further questions should be directed to
Benjamin Morris,

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Received on Wed Sep 26 2007 - 23:56:21 EDT