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Katrina Conference (2010)

From American Sodom to American Phoenix
The Destruction and Rebirth of New Orleans

A conference to commemorate the 5th Anniversary of the storm October 21-23, 2010


To commemorate the fifth anniversary of hurricane Katrina, a group of scholars from Tulane and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales will present a conference in New Orleans from October 21-23, 2010.

The joint conference will be open to the University's communities and the general public. Six scholars from various departments at Tulane and six scholars from the École will present papers, exploring how scholars on both sides of the Atlantic view the hurricane and its aftermath. The conference will mark the most ambitious cooperative effort between these two institutions to date, and it will be an important step in further cementing the relationship.

Hurricane Katrina was among the greatest man-made disasters in American history, a massive failure that raised vital questions about the role and capability of the national, state, and local government to prevent and respond to such an event, about whether or not to rebuild a major city located in a vulnerable location, about how such a disaster might have been avoided, and if and how an entire city's population can be brought back. These questions were complicated by the city's widespread poverty, by its deep racial and class divisions, and by the often inaccurate media coverage of the event as it unfolded. The story of the destruction of much of the city of New Orleans marks one of the greatest tragedies in American history. Scholars on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean offered unique insight into this tragedy at the conference held by the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in the fall of 2005. Research findings five years later will provide scholarly depth to the study of disaster and rebuilding.

The most important lessons from Katrina are to be found in the comparison of this experience to the rest of the nation. New Olreanians refused to give up their rich culture, even when it was threatened to the core by mass destruction and a lack of action at the highest levels of government. The unique cultural heritage of the city, greatly influenced by its historic ties to France, has thus far resisted the homogenization that has destroyed so much of America's unique heritage. Scholars from both institutions will address these and other questions, thereby working toward increased understanding on this issue between France and the United States.