Archive for wetlands

Calculating Culture

Posted in First Encounters, NOLA, Research with tags , , , , , , on February 1, 2010 by lexis2praxis

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted here.  A lot has happened, both in regard to the progress of my research and life in New Orleans.  I’ve been wondering how best to approach this blog: there are already so many great NOLA bloggers out there.  While I still want to blog about New Orleans as an engineered landscape, and about the use of levees and walls as the primary means of flood protection, nothing that happens here – culturally speaking – is removed from that.  And given the fact that I’ve learned that the degree to which New Orleans is protected is nearly entirely based on the calculation of economic assets, I think it’s important to write about what it’s like to live here.  Is there something to be said for protecting New Orleans because it is – economic assets aside – New Orleans?  In other words – is it really valuable, in a countable way, as a “cultural wetlands”?

So I will blog about the “culture” of New Orleans, an important component of which, of course, is engineering; and what it’s like to live with walls and water.

Maybe I’m just adding, and preaching, to the choir, but the outsider’s voice is different.  I’ve been practically all over the United States and several other countries, so I have some basis for comparison in terms of personal experience.  A recent transplant to New Orleans, I can speak to the way the place can capture you.  I also have no qualms about how this will “bias” my research.  All research is biased; all results are products of interactions and complex histories.  Plus, the process of study – learning – is really just allowing oneself to be changed.

Cultural Wetlands

Posted in Art with tags , , , , on October 17, 2009 by lexis2praxis

New Orleans used to be known for her music.  Is she still?  According to some people interviewed in New Orleans Music Renaissance, the local music scene is trying hard but struggling.  Many of the musicians who used to live here are in diaspora, or simply disappeared, and no one has tried to find out where they are or if they will come back, or if they need help to come back.  This should be a national priority, says David Freeman, because New Orleans is the “cultural wetlands … of the country.”

Wetlands.  Diverse, complex, vital to a dense web of relationships.  Harboring stores of well-preserved history, bones and shells and things.  Often overlooked.  Exceedingly fragile.

One of the people participating in my research, who asked me to call him Tad when I write about him, took me on a tour through the Central Business District, pointing out where the old jazz clubs used to be.  They’re dry.  The Ninth Ward: dry.

The bird’s foot delta bridges the United States with the Carribbean, a cultural wetlands indeed, for it’s a geographic link for automatic travel, communication, and trade.  Its songs are now wildly dispersed, a performer or two perhaps trumpeting or tapping away in some Boise bar or Hollywood street.  The young musicians here are now thrilled and burdened by their new, Katrina-induced roles as the best players in the city.  But some of them think things can only get better.  Irvin Mayfield says, “We have to think about what we’re going to be,” because, “it’s not going to be what it was.”