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Title: Culture après le déluge : heritage ecology after disaster
Author: Morris, Benjamin Alan
ISNI:       0000 0004 2707 2418
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2010
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This PhD dissertation examines the relationships between cultural heritage and the environment, focusing specifically on the devastation and rebuilding of New Orleans, Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Departing from conventional approaches to the natural world (such as documentation- and conservation-based approaches), this thesis adopts a developmental-systems based approach to cultural heritage in order to construct a new way of interpreting it, within the specific context of natural disaster. This new approach, termed 'heritage ecology', reinterprets cultural heritage in two ways: first, as a physical assemblage of sites, materials, traditions, beliefs, and practices that are constructed in significant ways by their natural environments; and second, as a metaphorical ecosystem which impacts back on the assessment and construction of that natural environment in turn. In order to construct this approach, the thesis poses three interrelated questions: how is cultural heritage transformed as a result of disaster, how do societies rebuild their heritage after disaster, and how does heritage contribute to the rebuilding process? Examining a rebuilding process in real-time provides a unique window on these processes; events and developments in New Orleans taken from the first four years of recovery (2005-2009) suggest that prior understandings of how societies rebuild themselves after disaster have neglected crucial aspects of cultural heritage that are integral to that process. The examination of data from the case study - data of diverse forms, such as historiography, the culinary arts, music, the built environment, and memorial sites and landscapes - reveals the limitations of traditional approaches to heritage and prompts a reassessment of a range of issues central to heritage research, issues such as materiality, authenticity, and commodification. This study moreover incorporates into heritage research concepts previously unconsidered, such as infrastructure and policy. In the coming century of global climate change and increased environmental hazards, this last theme will become increasingly central to heritage policy and research; the dissertation concludes accordingly, with a reflection on contingency and future disaster.
Supervisor: Boast, Robin ; Sørensen, Marie-Louise Stig Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Cultural heritage ; Natural disaster ; New Orleans ; Hurricane Katrina