Governing Affect: Neoliberalism and Disaster Reconstruction

By Roberto E. Barrios | Go to book overview

5. Ecologies of Affect and Affective Regimes
THE NEOLIBERAL RECONSTRUCTION
OF NEW ORLEANS

Can a plan devised by disaster recovery experts such as architects and urban planners for the reconstruction of a city make a person upset? Can its words and images elicit bodily effects like the tightening of muscles, the quickening of pulses, and the shortening of breaths on that place’s residents? Many New Orleanians from the city’s central neighborhoods who participated in its three recovery-planning processes after Hurricane Katrina would answer these questions with an emphatic yes. If this is the case, then what is an anthropologist to make of such manifestations of emotion? I would not have considered these questions prior to embarking on the ethnographic project that concerns this chapter—the ethnography of recovery planning in post-Katrina New Orleans.

In the pages that follow, I make the case that the manifestation of emotions in the context of post-Katrina recovery planning occurred at the point where New Orleanians’ ecologies of affect met with what I call the affective regimes of state-sanctioned recovery planning. By using the term ecologies of affect, I intend to communicate the connection between the ethnicized, racialized, and class-based relations involved in making the city’s built environment and social order and people’s embodied sensibilities. Over the course of the last three hundred years, many New Orleanians have tried to realize a racially structured society by giving spatial form to their ideas about difference; that is, they have built neighborhoods where racialized class distinctions are made and sustained through everyday practices of space and body making (Breunlin and Regis 2006; Campanella 2006; Dawdy 2008; Hirsch and Logsdon 1992; Johnson 1992; Lipsitz 2006; Regis 1999).

The spaces and body politic of New Orleans, I would learn over the course of this work, constituted an ecology of affect where people came

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