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Katrina Tourism and a Tale of Two Cities: Visualizing Race and Class in New Orleans


This essay explores new forms of tourism that have emerged in post-Katrina New Orleans. It begins by looking at the ways in which the city's long history of commodifying black culture for predominantly white tourists has enabled the existence of two parallel worlds. Though distinct, these worlds are defined by a necessarily precarious boundary which allows New Orleans's tourists to experience African American culture “up close.” The voyeurism of the post-hurricane disaster tourism works rather differently. The Katrina bus tours, which transport tourists to storm-devastated neighbourhoods, focus eyes on a landscape peculiarly devoid of human inhabitants; likewise, the IMAX feature Hurricane on the Bayou is driven by a de-politicized environmentalism that elides the human cost of the storm. Both offer a sense of closure by rendering the ongoing post-Katrina racial fallout all but invisible. The essay argues that this possibly indicates a new and deeper kind of disconnect between the two parallel cities that reside in New Orleans.

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