Authentic New Orleans
Tourism, Culture, and Race in the Big Easy
Publication Year: 2007
Honorable Mention for the 2008 Robert Park Outstanding Book Award given by the ASA's Community and Urban Sociology Section
Mardi Gras, jazz, voodoo, gumbo, Bourbon Street, the French Quarter—all evoke that place that is unlike any other: New Orleans. In Authentic New Orleans, Kevin Fox Gotham explains how New Orleans became a tourist town, a spectacular locale known as much for its excesses as for its quirky Southern charm.
Gotham begins in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina amid the whirlwind of speculation about the rebuilding of the city and the dread of outsiders wiping New Orleans clean of the grit that made it great. He continues with the origins of Carnival and the Mardi Gras celebration in the nineteenth century, showing how, through careful planning and promotion, the city constructed itself as a major tourist attraction. By examining various image-building campaigns and promotional strategies to disseminate a palatable image of New Orleans on a national scale Gotham ultimately establishes New Orleans as one of the originators of the mass tourism industry—which linked leisure to travel, promoted international expositions, and developed the concept of pleasure travel.
Gotham shows how New Orleans was able to become one of the most popular tourist attractions in the United States, especially through the transformation of Mardi Gras into a national, even international, event. All the while Gotham is concerned with showing the difference between tourism from above and tourism from below—that is, how New Orleans’ distinctiveness is both maximized, some might say exploited, to serve the global economy of tourism as well as how local groups and individuals use tourism to preserve and anchor longstanding communal traditions.
Published by: NYU Press
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Research for this book began during my first few years as an assistant professor in the sociology department at Tulane University. Within months of moving to New Orleans in 1997, I became fascinated by the strong sense of place identity that seemed to radiate through the city’s neighborhoods and institutions, despite the trenchant inequalities and antagonisms that marked everyday life. ...
1 Introduction: Authentic New Orleans
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...In the days following the devastation unleashed by Hurricane Katrina, media outlets from around the world broadcasted riveting images of stranded residents, widespread physical damage, and flooded neighborhoods. News coverage of the aftermath revealed that the vast majority of people left behind in New Orleans were poor, African American, and elderly. ...
2 Processions and Parades: Carnival Krewes and the Development of Modern Mardi Gras
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...For over a century, Carnival and Mardi Gras have been tightly integrated into the social life of New Orleans and have always expressed the collective conscience and social antagonisms of the city. Traditionally, the Carnival season in New Orleans consists of a series of balls and parades from January 6 (Twelfth Night, or the Feast of the Epiphany) to Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday,” the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. ...
3 “Of Incomprehensible Magnitude and Bewildering Variety": The 1884 World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition
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...New Orleans was the host city for the 1884 World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition, an extravagant spectacle that helped raise the international profile of the city while encouraging the growth of new business networks and cultural organizations to bolster tourism. International expositions, or world’s fairs, are large-scale, short-term events that express in concentrated form the social conditions of the modern metropolis—“the swift and continuous shift of external and internal stimuli . . . rapid telescoping of changing images . . . and the unexpectedness of violent stimuli,” as described by Georg Simmel. 2 ...
4 Authenticity in Black and White: The Rise of Tourism in the Twentieth Century
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...The 1884 World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition set the stage for a new era of tourism development supported by new business organizations, corporate networks, and marketing strategies to bolster New Orleans as an attractive place for investment and leisure. As reflected in the quotes above, the promotion of tourism was part of a larger process of urban place building that aimed to aestheticize space and culture and to make both residents and visitors “New Orleans conscious.” ...
5 Boosting the Big Easy: New Orleans Goes Global
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...By the 1950s, New Orleans could boast the development of a tourism infrastructure composed of hotels and motels; amusement parks; sightseeing tours, carriage rides, taxi and bus guides; travel bureaus and tourist information centers; and museums.2 Several decades of commercial investment and place promotion had transformed tourism from a relatively ad hoc and uncoordinated set of activities into an increasingly specialized and rationalized industry. ...
6 From a Culture of Tourism to a Touristic Culture: The 1984 Louisiana World Exposition and the Holy Trinity of New Orleans Tourism
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...One hundred years after hosting the World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition in 1884, New Orleans was again the host city for another international exposition, the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition, the last world’s fair held in the United States. Initial discussions for hosting a major exposition came in the 1960s when a statewide coalition of business leaders formed the Council for a Better Louisiana (CABL) to remedy the state’s lagging economic growth and attract new sources of capital investment. ...
7 A Repertoire of Authenticity: Contested Space and the Transformation of the French Quarter
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...The preceding quotes communicate three very different interpretations of New Orleans’s most famous neighborhood and how it has changed over the decades. The first quote, from the 1970s, expresses fears about the French Quarter becoming an amusement park for tourists; the second quote laments the loss of neighborhood authenticity; and the third quote describes the French Quarter as the economic engine of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana. ...
8 “The Greatest Free Show on Earth”: Intimations and Antinomies of Commodification and Carnival
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This book ends where it began, with Carnival and the Mardi Gras celebration. As reflected in literary, film, and music sources, New Orleans is probably most often identified with Mardi Gras, a celebration that symbolizes the city’s joie de vivre while displaying submerged conflicts over race and class. In spite of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, more than fifty parades, walking groups, and other informal processions took to the streets of New Orleans during 2006 to celebrate Carnival. ...
9 Conclusion: The Future of New Orleans
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In the conclusion to this book, I return to the three future scenarios introduced in the first chapter and reflect on the role of tourism in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the rebuilding of New Orleans. The following excerpt from the Times-Picayune newspaper reveals the striking contrasts between elite perceptions of the recovery process versus ordinary people’s struggles to rebuild their homes and neighborhoods. ...
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About the Author
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Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2007