By Brittany Lee Frederick
Development Drowned and Reborn: Blues and Bourbon Restorations in Post-Katrina New Orleans, by Clyde Woods (Athens: University of Georgia Press 2017).
In 1927, long before Hurricane Katrina bore down upon Louisiana with devastating force, city planners dynamited the levees in the predominately black St. Bernard and Plaquemine parishes in anticipation of a hurricane and created a “biblical-scale tragedy” out of the storm (108). In 1965, city planners constructed the MR-GO that channeled storm water into the lower Ninth ward and away from the rest of the profit-earning city during hurricane Betsy accruing one billion dollars in targeted damages. With this history in mind, the lack of aid for residents in the 9th ward following Hurricane Katrina is unsurprising.
Author Clyde Woods, with editors Laura Pulido and Jordan T. Camp, explores qualitative historical data to offer a portrait of the tumult in the New Orleans region from the Louisiana Purchase to the period after Hurricane Katrina. In doing so, the work explores the importance of New Orleans as the center of the United States’ international activity at the height of its hegemonic power, theorizes the rise of ultra-Conservativism as having existed long before Post-Fordism, and beautifully describes the resilience and community-centered ethics of care that the multi-ethnic coalition of Black slaves, Black migrants, and Indigenous populations and explores how the city’s rich fabric of cultural traditions survived decades of violence and attempted destruction by the “Bourbon blocs” of militarized and planter-dominated conservatives. The book suggests that nothing but a man-made disaster as devastating as Katrina could remove New Orleans’ Black community.
As Pulido and Camp edited the volume after Woods’ passing, the latter half is understandably less-theorized than the first half, however, their conclusion is masterful. The book offers valuable insights beyond theorizing Katrina and is valuable for urban scholars interested in the geopolitics of cities, scholars in black studies interested in militarization, police brutality and prison proliferation, and social movement theorists.
Brittany Lee Frederick is a doctoral student in Sociology at Boston University.