My project, "In the Time of Disaster: Representations of Hurricane Katrina in African American Literature and Culture", explores African American post-Katrina cultural production that engages the political, cultural, and social effects of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana and Mississippi. I read the spatio-temporal parameters of Black post-Katrina films, music, and literature to consider how these texts challenge and revise our cultural memory of the storm. I argue that together these texts, which include works by Jesmyn Ward, Patricia Smith, Mat Johnson, Kiese Laymon, among others, contextualize Hurricane Katrina as a process that unfolds on a continuum of ongoing Black freedom struggles rather than a discrete event. The temporal disruptions found in my archive expand the depth of historical knowledge about the affected region to make visible the social and political preconditions of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation and aftermath. The spatial orientations of Black post-Katrina cultural texts bring the Mississippi Gulf Coast into view alongside New Orleans. I read this geographic pivot to Mississippi as an important intervention of Black post-Katrina cultural production that provides an expansive view of multiple souths in the region and the otherwise obscured histories of coastal Black communities adversely affected by the storm. Together, these spatio-temporal revisions offered by Black writers and artists reveal the figure of the Black mother as central to African American cultural and literary interpretations of the storm.
Post-fellowship placement: Assistant Professor of English at Colgate University