Undergraduates walking down the street

Photo by Isabelle Green

Isabelle Green (2015, Mansfield) introduces her prize-winning dissertation, 'The Gendered Geographies of Rebuilding: Worlding Women's Experiences of Post-Katrina New Orleans', awarded by the RGS-IBG Gender and Feminist Geographies Research Group.

Isabelle Green

In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina left the city of New Orleans devastated. 80 percent of the city's area flooded following levee failures (Ehrenfeucht, 2011) which displaced anywhere up to 90 percent of the city's inhabitants from their homes and communities (Wolfshon, 2006). The estimated death toll stands at 1,464 (Boyd, 2006), and the total cost of the hurricane at US$108 billion (Knabb et al, 2005). Using post-Katrina New Orleans as an example of a highly emotive and emotional event, my dissertation aimed to bring together theories of affective geography, and the feminist geographies usually highly critical of them, in order to formulate a nuanced case study of the lived experience of relational spaces.

My dissertation explored affective theories from a position of situated difference by considering the experiences of women in New Orleans, which highlights that individual bodies 'are not figured through multiple social categories of age, sex, ethnicity, race and dis/ability' (Jacobs and Nash, 2003:275). Adey et al (2013) pose that these intersectional identities do just that: intersect a given space-time, acting as an 'angle of arrival' into it, shaping individuals' positions within, and consequent experience of, the space. Through this, a generative nexus is found between non-representational relational theories and feminist scholarship.

My dissertation presented a series of scenes of women's lives in a post-disaster space which reveal distinct lived worldings of the gendered experience of this space. This form of presentation has been chosen to acknowledge that affective life is 'an assemblage of disparate scenes that pull… into a tangle of trajectories, connections and disjunctures' (Stewart, 2007:5). Each expression thus exists as a distinct 'worlding' of women's experiences. Worlding is understood in this piece as an ontology through which we can understand the nature of existence through visceral insights into 'being-in-the-world' (Heidegger, 1962). Individually, these scenes are 'animated and inhabitable' (Stewart, 2007:5); an embodied, performed, and shared experience. Viewed together, they constellate to mark out a 'contour line' (Katz, 2008) of women's resilience, and the way they hold, "at the core of [their] being, a desire to make things right" (Anne, interview).

  • Adey, P., et al (2013). 'Pour votre tranquillité': Ambiance, atmosphere, and surveillance. Geoforum, 49: 299-309Boyd, 2006
  • Ehrenfeucht, R., Nelson, M. (2011). Planning, Population Loss and Equity in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Planning, Practice & Research. 26 (2): 129-146.
  • Heidegger, M. (1962) Being and Time. London: SCM Press.
  • Jacobs, J., and Nash, C. (2003) Too little, too much: cultural feminist geographies, Gender, Place and Culture 10: 265-79.
  • Katz, C. (2008) Bad elements: Katrina and the scoured landscape of social reproduction. Gender, Place and Culture 15 (1): 15-29
  • Knabb, R. D., Rhome, J. R., and Brown, D. P. (2005) Hurricane Katrina: August 23 - 30, 2005. Miami, F.L.: National Hurricane Center.
  • Stewart, K. (2007) Ordinary Affects. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.
  • Wolfshon, B. (2006). Evacuation Planning and Engineering for Hurricane Katrina. The Bridge. 36 (1).