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FREEDOM AND CULTURAL CONSCIOUSNESS: BLACK WORKING-CLASS PARADES IN POST-KATRINA NEW ORLEANS

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ABSTRACT

This analysis of public parading in New Orleans extends a cultural sociology framework to shed new light on the importance of public parades in the construction of meaning in the postdisaster city. Not dependent upon a functioning city structure for their existence, public parades reemerged in the months following Katrina and have remained self-generating resources creating the logic and momentum for rebuilding communities and meaning in local life. Among these are parades of Mardi Gras Indian Tribes and Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs in which historical narratives of fictive Indian tribes and fictive nouveau riche are annually reinvented. Performances—involving body adornment, processional display, improvisational music, and dance—express symbols of freedom, while the collective participation that is a central tenet to these rituals creates an enduring cultural consciousness of self and city. For participants and observers, these mass gatherings on public streets provide a purpose, a process, and a gauge of recovery of the city's culture in post-Katrina New Orleans.

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