Throughout Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas, Solnit and Snedeker present various color maps which simultaneously reveal details about both New Orleans geography and culture, many of which contradict each other in subtle ways. Whether it be map 11 showing the locations of seafood shacks contrasted with nightclub and brothel locations, or map 16 showing key locations of music development juxtaposed with types of sediment, both maps paint New Orleans as dirty, but also as a hotbed of cultural development. The map from chapter 11 also gives locations of where Judeo-Christian televangelists were caught with prostitutes, which paints a more accurate picture of where these money making preachers’ morality often times truly lies. Esteemed members of the church getting caught with prostitutes dirties the church’s reputation which is the only counterbalance for New Orleans’ moral sanctity against prostitution and political corruption.
In chapter 11, readers learn that “one out of every seventy jobs in the Pelican State is seafood related” (Solnit and Snedeker, p. 84). As a result of the BP oil disaster, seafood prices rose as much as $3 in some instances. While this is not a problem for the allochthonous tourists, who are able to spend their outside money on both seafood and prostitution/nightlife(alcohol consumption) at higher rates when on vacation, the everyday, working class New Orleans citizens have to pay these absorbent prices regularly. BP, a company not even based in the US, nevermind New Orleans, reap the economic benefits of New Orleans natural resources (oil) while burdening the city’s everyday citizens with the dirty, polluted aftermath. The Atlas mentions people having to eat shrimp that have tumors, while paying more for them.
Prostitution and corruption represent New Orleans’ lack of moral cleanliness, while the marshy swamps, increasing sea level and results of both Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill left literal dirt. Whether it be the influence global climate change has on New Orleans, or the allochthonous industry titans like BP which ravaged the Gulf of Mexico, it is outside activity that has devastated New Orleans’ fragile ecosystems which the locals rely on for life, and leisure. Tourists bolster New Orleans illegal prostitution industry which exploits its sex workers (disproportionately black and transgendered workers report the most abuse). Out of this muck however, a multicultural society with a thriving nightlife, food industry, and music scene has blossomed. This pursuit of leisure, in concert with the prevalence of crucial natural resources, is what ironically attracts the allochthonous people in the first place. Shutting down these cultural and literal borders would preserve New Orleans’ longevity, however, this would simultaneously trap them, which seems to be a trope which will be revisited throughout the semester.