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American Anthropologist

Putting the Ninth Ward on the Map: Race, Place, and Transformation in Desire, New Orleans

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Abstract

In this article, we consider how long-term patterns of resistance to structural violence inform citizens' responses to displacement before and after Katrina. Drawing on Abdou Maliq Simone's (2004) conceptualization of people as infrastructure, we recenter the discussion about the rebuilding of New Orleans around displaced residents, taking the place-making practices of members of a social club as a lens through which to examine the predicament of the city as a whole. Members have been generating alternative ways of thinking about and dwelling together in a restructuring city. Their perspectives are articulated through in-depth interviews, focus groups, and the embodied practices of club members and their followers as they make claims to the city through massive, participatory street processions known as second lines. These distinctive ways of thinking and being in the city—the subaltern mainstream of the second-line tradition—are now being deployed by exiled New Orleanians reconsidering their relationship to home.

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