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Klopfer, Anja Nadine (2017): Choosing to Stay: Hurricane Katrina Narratives and the History of Claiming Place-Knowledge in New Orleans. In: Journal of Urban History, Vol. 43, No. 1: pp. 115-139


Oral histories of the Hurricane Katrina experience abound in stories of conscious decisions to ride out the storm. My article explores the narrative of choosing to stay as an empowering narrative rooted in assertions of place-knowledge and traces its historical genealogy to the nineteenth century. I argue that claiming agency in New Orleans and articulating a sense of belonging and local identity through professed intimate knowledge of the local environment took shape as a strategy of resistance against dominant discourses of American progress after the Civil War. Ultimately, this counternarrative of connecting to place as homeland, drawing on knowledge arising from lived experience, defied the normative twist of modernization, simultaneously reformulating power relations within the city. Choosing to stay thus turns out to be a long-lasting narrative not only of disaster, but of place, belonging, and community;without understanding its historical layers, we cannot fully make sense of this particular Katrina narrative.