When the Levees Broke| Politics of Memory

A while back I took a class at Amherst entitled, “Politics of Memory.” The class was focused on how we view past experiences and historical events that conflict or negate the love we have for a place (city, institution, country, etc). Is our pride for the place diminished? Or is how we recollect the past changed?

Of Spike Lee’s interviewees, I noticed that many New Orleans citizens were grappling with their displacement and rejection in relation to the love they had for their home. As we talked about in class, these people are presented as having a “social death” in their own community and unable to be a part of where they thought they belonged. I think it would be extremely hard to understand and rationalize–your love of a home, a culture, and the world that you know with the utter alienation from it. The inhabitants of New Orleans are clearly upset, and some of them seem to stick by New Orleans, despite their hardships. However, the people did not let their love of the city impact how they perceived their experience (they did not sugar-coat the trauma of Katrina and it’s impact). New Orleans witnessed a natural disaster, but the storm revealed the disproportionate “love” the city gives back to its people.

One comment

  1. Thanks for this post, SJ. I agree that the interviews revealed the discord between having to face the devastation that physically plagued New Orleans and also having a deep love for the place you are from. While the love for the place likely remained constant for its inhabitants despite displacement, I thought it was interesting that we only got deep interviews with those individuals that ended up staying longterm despite the hardship. I think it would have been interesting to hear from those individuals that were displaced, moved elsewhere, and stayed elsewhere.

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