20 Years After Katrina: Tracing the Storm’s Impact on American Culture & Society

deadline for submissions: 
July 15, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Mary Ruth Stewart and Glenn Jellenik/ University of Central Arkansas
contact email: 

The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina saw an explosion of texts that processed the storm. Works of fiction (novels, graphic novels, poetry, movies, tv shows) as well as a slew of memoirs, literary non-fiction books, documentaries, and songs surfaced to sift through the emotional rubble left in Katrina’s wake. Our 2015 collection, 10 Years After Katrina, was an attempt to critically process these artistic renderings of the storm’s effect on American culture. In the past ten years, it seems as if the storm of Katrina texts has … abated. Only a smattering of books have surfaced after 2015—a novel, The Lost Book of Adana Moreau (2020), Katrina: a History (2020), a memoir, The Yellow House (2019). By the same token, a trickle of movies—one feature film, the heist caper Cut Throat City (2019), and some documentaries, including Closed for the Storm (2020), about the struggle of a 6 Flags after the hurricane and One Note at a Time (2016), about the struggle of New Orleans musicians after the storm. One recent television miniseries—5 Days at Memorial—dramatizes a hospital during the hurricane. And that’s about it in the last 10 years.All in all, it seems that Katrina no longer occupies an immediate space in our cultural imagination. And yet the case could be made that Katrina represents a pivotal moment in American history and culture. 

Our latest project, 20 Years After Katrina,will work to make that case by considering Katrina’s legacy in a wider socio-cultural sense. In this collection, we position Katrina as a signal moment in American culture, a peeling back of our American skin that acted as a catalyst for discussions (or lack thereof) on systemic racism in America, wealth disparity in America, crumbling infrastructure, climate change, political corruption and partisan gridlock, etc. Was Katrina the moment when the “unity” of 9/11 wore off completely, marking the opening shots in the 21st-century culture wars? We are looking for papers that consider the lasting impact of this event, on both culture and society. All approaches to thinking through where we are 20 years after Katrina are welcome. Papers could consider the ways Katrina has filtered directly into culture in the past 10 years, or they could approach the storm’s legacy from other directions—such as, how we use Katrina in the classroom, ways in which Katrina and reactions to Katrina are received 20 years after the event (often now by students who may have no actual memory of the event at all). What does Katrina mean in America 20 years after? What position does the storm hold in our still-raging culture wars?