Weekend Reads: Authentic New Orleans

In fairness, I must say that it takes a lot longer than a weekend to read this book!  This is another of the books I read while researching Bayou Fire.

Authentic New Orleans: Tourism, Culture, and Race in the Big EasyAuthentic New Orleans: Tourism, Culture, and Race in the Big Easy by Kevin Gotham

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is not a fast-paced work, but it is an important one.

Tulane University sociologist Kevin Fox Gotham uses New Orleans as his test case to discuss how tourism affects culture. Building on New Orleans’ fascinating history, he looks at how the city was promoted to travelers. From historic Mardi Gras krewes, to the New Orleans Exposition of 1884, the World’s Fair 100 years later, Storyville (the red light district), and even Hurricane Katrina, he examines how various convention bureaus, writers, and the citizenry at large view tourism and the city’s promotional position.

One of the things I found most interesting was the concept of a touristic culture (as opposed to a culture of tourism). In a touristic culture, branding efforts and emphasis provoke the local citizenry to shift concepts of what is or is not an “authentic” experience. Thus, what constitutes authenticity shifts over time.

I read this book as part of my research for a piece I’m writing myself, and gained new understandings that will doubtless improve my own work.

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