"This is the only tour that sells": Tourism, Disaster, and National Identity in New Orleans
Invited Talk by Phaedra Pezzullo
When: Mon, Oct 06, 2008, 3:30pm
Where: Campus Center 803
Professor Phaedra Pezzullo, Associate Professor of Communication and Culture from Indiana University, will be visiting UMass Amherst and will be delivering a lecture titled:
‘This is the only tour that sells’: Tourism, disaster, and national identity in New Orleans
For many, New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.A., was an ideal vacation destination, with the commercial tourist industry providing one third of the municipal budget. This changed on August 29, 2005, when Hurricane Katrina made landfall and, due to a series of events, the majority of the city was submerged underwater. In December 2005, the multinational corporation, Gray Line Tours, announced its business in New Orleans would re-launch featuring “Katrina Tours.” Controversy immediately arose, particularly as neighborhoods previously found outside commercial tourist imaginaries now were placed on tourists’ itineraries. Drawing on secondary debates and participant observation of the tour performances, I argue that tourist practices at disaster sites offer a compelling way to negotiate the social drama of nationhood through challenging tourist imaginaries of space and belonging. The controversy surrounding Katrina tours also provides an opportunity to consider the ethics and the efficacy of commercial and noncommercial tourist practices in the aftermath of an unjust environmental disaster and how we can improve them in the future.