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Desire and Disaster in New Orleans: Tourism, Race, and Historical Memory

By
Lynnell L. Thomas
Lynnell L. Thomas

Lynnell L. Thomas is Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

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Duke University Press
ISBN electronic:
978-0-8223-7635-4
Publication date:
2014

Most of the narratives packaged for New Orleans's many tourists cultivate a desire for black culture—jazz, cuisine, dance—while simultaneously targeting black people and their communities as sources and sites of political, social, and natural disaster. In this timely book, the Americanist and New Orleans native Lynnell L. Thomas delves into the relationship between tourism, cultural production, and racial politics. She carefully interprets the racial narratives embedded in tourism websites, travel guides, business periodicals, and newspapers; the thoughts of tour guides and owners; and the stories told on bus and walking tours as they were conducted both before and after Katrina. She describes how, with varying degrees of success, African American tour guides, tour owners, and tourism industry officials have used their own black heritage tours and tourism-focused businesses to challenge exclusionary tourist representations. Taking readers from the Lower Ninth Ward to the White House, Thomas highlights the ways that popular culture and public policy converge to create a mythology of racial harmony that masks a long history of racial inequality and structural inequity.

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