Re-visioning Katrina: Exploring Gender in pre- and post-Katrina New Orleans

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Virginia Tech


I argue that to understand the gender dynamics of New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina, and the storm's aftermath, one must interrogate the cultural conflation of the black female body and the city's legacy to explore what it means and how it situates real black women in social, cultural, and physical landscapes. Using a hybrid theoretical framework informed by Black feminist theory, ecocriticism, critical race feminism, and post-positivist realism, I explore the connections between New Orleans' cultural and historical discourses that gender the city as feminine, more specifically as a black woman or Jezebel, with narratives of real black females to illustrate the impact that dominant discourses have on people's lives. I ground this work in Black feminism, specifically Hortense Spillers's and Patricia Hill Collins's works that center the black female body to garner a fuller understanding of social systems, Kimberlé Crenshaw's concept of intersectionality, and Evelyn Hammonds's call for a reclamation of the body to interrogate the ideologies that inscribe black women. In addition, I argue that black women should reclaim New Orleans' metaphorical black body and interrogate this history to move forward in rebuilding the city. As an ecocritic and feminist, I understand the tension involved with reading a city as feminine and arguing for this reclamation, as this echoes colonial and imperialist discourses of conquering land and bodies, but I negotiate these tensions by specifically examining the discourse itself to expose the sexist and racist ideologies at work.



gothic, black female body, Jezebel, Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, Gender