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Do You Know What it Means to Rebuild New Orleans? Cultural Sustainability after Disaster

From Sustainable to Resilient Cities: Global Concerns and Urban Efforts

ISBN: 978-1-78441-058-2, eISBN: 978-1-78441-057-5

ISSN: 1047-0042

Publication date: 25 November 2014

Abstract

Purpose

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans on August 29, 2005, the category 3 storm’s surge caused nearly every municipal levee to break leaving 80% of the city flooded. In the aftermath of the storm, television images of stranded residents, drowned hospital patients, looted stores, and chaos in designated shelters ignited an ethical debate over the role of race and class in modern America. As debates raged over how, or whether, to rebuild New Orleans, the idea of cultural sustainability underlies these discussions.

Design/methodology

Drawing on the largest diaspora since the American Dust Bowl of the 1930s, I begin by examining the concept of a civil society through Habermas’ (1994) utopian model of an ideal speech community. I extend Habermas’ idea to the environmental justice movement with an emphasis on the utilitarian approach. This includes my discussion of Hinman’s (1998) pluralistic view of moral ethics within a multicultural society coupled with Bullard’s (1993, 1994, 2008) applied environmental social justice in low-income racial minority neighborhoods disproportionately impacted by hazardous waste sites. Then, I expand this argument into the concept of cultural sustainability in which the concept of a free speech community and environmental justice are embedded.

Findings

Drawing on a case study of New Orleans, I examine how the city’s divided racial and class cultures provide major challenges to applying cultural sustainability practices in the post-Katrina rebuilding process.

Originality

This chapter uses a case study to explore the application of cultural sustainability practices highlighting the concepts implicit roots in Habermas’ utopian free speech community and underlying ties to the environmental justice movement.

Keywords

Citation

Holt, W.G. (2014), "Do You Know What it Means to Rebuild New Orleans? Cultural Sustainability after Disaster", From Sustainable to Resilient Cities: Global Concerns and Urban Efforts (Research in Urban Sociology, Vol. 14), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 267-287. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1047-004220140000014012

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014 Emerald Group Publishing Limited