A Retroactive Lesson in Memory, Forgetting, and Waste

I had this idea in the beginning of the semester but never wrote a blog post about it because I forgot amid the whirlwind of a semester; a lesson of remembering and forgetting that hits close to home. Nonetheless, I have my own personal experience with New Orleans that I think applies to our course concepts. Last spring, three of my friends and I drove the 20 hours down to New Orleans. Yes, the ride was long but the seventy-degree weather in the Gulf was an appreciated change from a Geneseo winter. While in New Orleans, though, I wasn’t really thinking about the city as a place where the country’s waste passes through. I was more interested in the unique architecture, storied history, wonderful weather, music, and culture rich foods, like prawns, jambalaya, and beignets. All of these aspects stood out much more than any negative connotation that accompanies the city r the devastation that occurred there. In so few words, waste wasn’t really on my mind during the vacation. I was unfortunately doing more forgetting than remembering. Continue reading “A Retroactive Lesson in Memory, Forgetting, and Waste”

Code noir, Casting a Shadow on People’s Memories

After Dr. DeFrantz’s discussion on how Code noir influenced some dance forms, I started thinking about the lasting effect slave codes left on society. Reiterating what Dr. DeFrantz touched on in the discussion, the codes specifically targeted enslaved African peoples in the French colonies in the eighteenth century. It placed restrictions on enslaved people’s religious practices, marriages and relationships, when they could meet together, and how they could be treated, among other aspects. As Dr. DeFrantz highlighted, these codes separated people into categories based on color, influencing how the rules affected them and how they were viewed in society. Code noir essentially went out of effect in 1803 when the U.S. took possession of Louisiana, eventually being replaced by the American slavery system many people are more familiar with.

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Memory and the Futility of Containment on a Smaller Scale

In class we discussed how Zone One deals with containment and how it can often be futile. The one main example of containment and its futility that I saw in the novel connected with one of our course concepts, memory. Mark Spitz mentions how, in this post-apocalyptic landscape, it’s necessary to only worry about the immediate future, otherwise, you’re not going to survive. He tries to contain himself in the present moment as much as possible but memory makes this effort futile. Mark is continually dragged back into the past, seeing and, more importantly, remembering faces of people he had “known or loved” in the zombies, such as his past teacher, Ms. Alcott. Even when survival requires living in the moment, the past still upwells in the form of memory. No matter how hard Mark, or anyone else, tries to contain themselves in the present moment, past experiences force themselves into consciousness.

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A Close to Home Violence Against New Orleans

As this NPR article suggests, there were many key players during the Hurricane Katrina disaster, one of the most well known being former New Orleans mayor, Ray Nagin. During and following the aftermath of the storm, Nagin was vocal about getting help for the citizens he was responsible for and didn’t shy away from showing his frustrations. One such example showing Nagin’s anger towards governmental aid, or there lack of, came in a radio interview where he stated, “Don’t tell me 40,000 people are coming [to New Orleans]. They’re not here. It’s too doggone late. Now get off your asses and do something, and let’s fix the biggest goddamn crisis in the history of this country.” From the perspective of Americans watching the news and seeing a lack of communication and governmental leadership, Nagin’s call for action was a refreshing change. Given that many Americans were angry that some politicians were more concerned with placing blame than helping aid efforts, Nagin’s response, whether a dubious effort or not, garnered him popularity. While New Orleans recovered and tried to clean its reputation as a great American city, Ray Nagin’s reputation soon began to tarnish, though.

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Racial Tension: Beyond the Surface

In my earlier blog post, The Boundary Between Light and Darkness, I commented on the light-dark interplay that Steve Prince’s “Katrina’s Veil: Stand at the Gretna Bridge” and Francisco Goya’s “Third of May 1808” utilize. Namely, in Prince’s piece, I saw the use of only black and white as a commentary on the racial tension present in America, namely New Orleans. The white and black simultaneously blend and separate figures in the print, showing how there was tension between citizens of the same city before, but particularly after, Katrina. Beth commented on this post, mentioning that there might be merit in looking at how surface tension connects with racial tension. After digging up my prior experience in general chemistry and looking at the definition of surface tension, the connection between the two terms was as clear as water.

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Ostracized and Undervalued

Roach in our class reading of “Echoes in the Bones” discussed how performers are thrown into the roles of effigies, often becoming “alternatively ostracized and overvalued.” After bringing up celebrity names such as Kim Kardashian, Angelina Jolie, Tom Hanks, etc., I started thinking about public figures that throw themselves into the roles of effigies and how this differs from what Roach brings up. The first example of this that came into my mind was Beyoncé and her Super Bowl 50 performance.

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The Boundary Between Light and Darkness

One important aspect I found when reading Solnit and Snedeker’s Unfathomable City was the apparent racial tension in the city after Katrina. There was an obvious boundary that law enforcement, government officials, and the media put between African American citizens and white citizens resulting in murder, hysteria, and moral ambiguity in a time when altruism was as valuable as currency. This boundary produced armed stand-offs between police and African Americans, botched autopsies, and the outright murder of African Americans who were only trying to help their families, such as Donnell Herrington.

After discussing Steve Prince’s “Katrina’s Veil: Stand at the Gretna Bridge” and Francisco Goya’s “Third of May 1808” in class, the boundary between light and dark, black and white, again, stood out to me.

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