Marginalization & Re-creation: New Orleans in the American Imagination

While we await an update or recap from Dooglas about the American Anthropological Association's 2010 Annual Meeting in New Orleans, LA, I thought we might live vicariously through literature, or, more exactly, through interviews with writers from New Orleans who talk about the city's place in the literary and American imagination. Click here to read Matt Robison's interview with Anne Gisleson, Haven Kimmel, Pia Z. Ehrhardt, Duncan Murrell, Rosemary James, Joseph J. DeSalvo, and W. Kenneth Holditch on The Morning News.

One of the most fascinating points, in my opinion, arises in Murrell's description of the city in response to a question about New Orleans' perceived unique cultural quality:

Too much can be made now, in 2010, of the French, Spanish and Caribbean influences. The French live on mostly in people’s last names, the Spanish in the architecture of the French Quarter. The Caribbean influence folds in both Spanish and French colonial influences, as well as aspects of the African diaspora. Of the three, the Caribbean influence is the most persistent. We should also note that the Irish and the Germans were major players in New Orleans culture. I think it’s somewhat misguided to try to pick out cultural influences by language and geography. It becomes hopelessly muddled the more you look into it. The most persistent cultural influence to me is the fact that New Orleans was a port city and a crossroads, a collector of people and things, the end of the river. And it’s still that way. It’s hard to overstate how much New Orleans loomed in the imaginations of 19th century frontier settlers, for instance. Once you got over the Appalachians and through the Cumberland Plateau and into the Mississippi drainage, one’s orientation to the world shifted from an east-west movement to a north-south one; or more specifically, an upriver-downriver one. And at the end of that river sat New Orleans. Nearly every outlaw legend that sprang up in the western territory in the early 19th century has some aspect that takes place in, or is related to, New Orleans. There is no legend of the Natchez Trace without New Orleans. The city is where crooks, race-traitors, Catholics, vagabonds, and every other marginalized person could go to hide and, sometimes, recreate themselves. To a great extent, it’s still that way.
Looking forward to hearing Dooglas' experiences at the AAA Conference...
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1 comment:

  1. Very useful and informative post.



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