A Heterogeography of Chauvin, Louisiana
These are the facts of Chauvin, Louisiana: a small, coastal town, populated by refugees from the Acadian diaspora; a place where men are trawlers, roustabouts, and roughnecks, and the women wives, cashiers; a hurricane disaster plain; shore-zero for oil spills; a French community that morphed into an illiterate American one; a repository for the old songs, two-steps, and trickster tales from a beautiful, impossible past; a population uneducated on behalf of the state, a still-spooky Catholicism, and technological maladjustment. And yet, facts are not enough.
This research projects intends to map the spaces between those “facts,” the impossible places, the intensities felt behind the hard stones of culture, the worlds that are verging on becoming. I want to study how people make worlds out of the stories and landscapes they live in. I want to understand how these worlds harden into story and culture and land, how they become facts. I want to understand the worlds that die and the ones that are eroded by the strong worlds already extant.
To do this, I will go to Chauvin and talk to the people that live there, make movies with them, look through their stuff, and share in their imaginings. My questions will be: How do you imagine your past? What could the future hold for you, your town, your landscapes? How do you move through the world in the present and what stories and fantasies propel you? But questions, like facts, are not enough. To cull the ephemeral space between actualities requires being attuned to the senses, to my subjects’ and mine, to bodily navigation—in addition to discourse, official or otherwise. I am after the kinds of fantasies that make it possible to live in the face of loss. The kinds that acknowledge the loss of industry, the loss of land, and the loss of community heritage, which in turn have embedded emotional importance in these lost things.
I want to study these people’s lives and the worlds they make in them in order to understand how the people of a small, precarious town carve out space for themselves that they can live in, how they manage paradoxical fantasies and stories, what populates and fuels their dreams. In the process of exploring these research questions, perhaps we might begin to touch the process whereby space, narrative, affect, and imagination condense into fact, how we might intervene in our own myth and world making.
Until recently, the majority of scholarship on the Louisiana Gulf Coast concerned articulating Cajun culture and history. This work included histories of Cajun identification, explications of the particularities of Cajun ethnic heritage, and the collection of a vast archive of oral histories and local musical performances. The scholars responsible for building the foundations of contemporary Louisiana studies in the 1970s and 80s—led by Glenn R. Conrad, Barry Jean Ancelet, Carl Lindahl, and Carl Brasseaux—were noteworthy for understanding the study of Louisiana culture as legitimate scholarly pursuit and for legitimizing a “Cajun revival” through scholarly discourse. Their activity also set the primary academic idioms for future scholarship: history and folklore. Conrad’s The Cajuns: Essays on their History and Culture1 the Center for Louisiana Studies’s first scholarly treatment of southern Louisiana culture incited a proliferation of cultural histories, from sensationalist and nostalgic accounts of Cajun life to serious projects with social science aspirations.2 Today’s work on Louisiana has not strayed far from its intellectual heritage. Scholars are still concerned with issues such as cultural identity,3 representation,4 the articulation of “traditional” life,5 the collection of folklore and music,6 and the boundaries of the Cajun population.7 This work can be roughly characterized by the following methodologies: historical analysis, ethnographic fieldwork, explorations of the politics of cultural identification and representation, ecology and human geography, and cultural studies.
While there is much value in the existing apparatus of Louisiana studies and in each individual methodology, I fear that an overemphasis on cultural identity and a faith in positivist, empirical research isolates Louisiana researchers from important conversations in social and spatial theory. Specifically, it seems that with few exceptions, these researchers rely on outdated theories, ones that promise the comfort of stable identity formation, simplistic ideas about social history and change, and an essentialist activist stance that hinders the very culture these scholars hope to champion. For my project studying imaginative world-building among the people of a precarious town in coastal Louisiana, I hope to intervene in the current echo-chamber of Louisiana studies, integrating a “radical empiricist”8 theoretical framework with an ethnographic practice attuned to the atmosphere9 of heterogeneous, affective, and relational worlds. In short, I view not only the formation of “culture” as a process, but also the improvisatory half-agency of connecting lines of relation between people, groups, virtualities, and environment. My own writing and research will, of course, be indebted to my forbearers in Louisiana scholarship: drawing on each of these subfields as unstable discourses that intersect with the lives and dreams of my subjects. Nevertheless, my work will be rigorously disloyal to existing Louisiana scholarship, shifting the conversation away from questions of authenticity, legacy, and folk practices and into the realm of intensities embedded in environments, of histories of the present, of mapping heterotopic imaginations.
In my work, I plan to study the imaginative worlds that people carve into an over-dense web of meanings inscribed by such discourses as folklore, politics, tourism, history, and sociology—in addition to ones inscribed by family, neighborhood, region, and nation. Some of these discursive structures may overlap with the symbolic field one might call “culture,” but I do not plan to synthesize people’s actions or stories into such a field or explain how they function in a given society, community, or shared imaginary. Instead, I hope to go into the field, a place in which I am already familiar, in order to be possessed by my subjects’ imaginations, to elicit their possession. I hope to share the work of creating worlds, to see how they cope with the various forces and accidents that conspire to wipe them out or to trap them in statistical knowledge. I hope to be radically open to experience, so that I might be sensitive enough to perceive the small relations that form between the actual and virtual components of life. The poetics of my anthropology—to borrow the language of radical empiricist Michael Jackson10—will be based on creating dialectical images that disturb common understandings while flickering with recognition, to absorb the worlds of others even as I share the ones I create. Against totalizing descriptions of stable cultures and identities, I hope to be surprised.
Anthropologist Tim Ingold suggests a “relational approach,” using the image of the rhizome as its governing model. Referencing Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s theory of the rhizome, Ingold writes, “[The] rhizome is a progeneration, a continually raveling and unraveling relational manifold.”11 Deleuze and Guattari describe their project as a “pragmatics,”12 “composing multiplicities or aggregates of intensity.”13 Thinking of people’s relation to social formations and environment through the figure of the rhizome allows for an ecological approach to ethnography. An ecological approach acknowledges the singularity of experience while connecting each singularity to a continually unfolding practice of living that creates, dismantles, and recreates overlapping worlds. Ingold writes, “such a synthesis would start from a conception of the human being not as a composite entity made up of separable but complementary parts, such as body, mind and culture, but rather as a singular locus of creative growth within a continually unfolding field of relationships.”14 Using an ecological approach for my fieldwork in Louisiana forces me to contend to how my subjects navigate a world of discursive, historical, economic, and environmental instability. The people I propose to study—put at risk by ecological and industrial disaster and overdetermined by symbolic frameworks erected by cultural industries and the thick descriptions written in the name of folklore—nevertheless make do with their lives, dwell within them, forge unforeseen relationships to locations, activities, artifacts, and representations of cultural heritage in popular media. Ingold’s application of rhizomatic analysis—which combines methodologies of scholars attuned to affect and sensation like Paul Stoller,15 Michael Taussig,16 and Jackson with an understanding of a dynamic ecology of place and attachment—forms a methodology that exceeds and undermines the interpretive paradigm in ethnographic study, and provides me with a solid foundation to tracing the lines of relation that comprise the lives of my subjects.17
I plan to couple Ingold’s ecological anthropology and the radically empirical projects of Stoller, Jackson, and Taussig with ethnographic practices inspired by Jean Rouch, filmmaker and anthropologist. In Rouch’s concept of the ciné-transe, the body of the filmmaker and ethnographer undergoes a transformation: not quite participant, not quite observer, the anthropologist becomes a machine. During a presentation of his film Tourou et Bitti—documenting a possession dance among the Songhay-Zarma in Niger—Rouch says, “my ‘self’ is altered in front of their eyes in the same way as is the ‘self’ of the possession dancers; it is the ‘film-trance’ (ciné-transe) of the one filming the ‘real trance’ of the other.”18 The ethnographer in ciné-transe dissolves his status as outsider, translator, interpreter, and scholar in a fit of improvisatory relationality, interacting with subjects, drawing performances from them, and inserting an exuberant provocation that is less about understanding how a cultural group functions than making a new filmic world with others. In other words, building relations, attuning to an atmosphere of affective connections. Rouch says he equates the potential for a film’s success on “whether [he has] been able to free [himself] from the weight of filmic and ethnographic theories necessary to rediscover the barbarie de l’invention.”19 What Rouch ultimately advocates is an ethnographic surrender: a surrender to the spark of recognition in the field, to the chance worlds that are on the precipice of emerging, to an improvisatory friendship with the people one studies. This surrender is one of bodily transformation, one that opens the body to sensuous experience.
I aim to practice an embodied anthropology that enacts a “barbarism of invention.” A central insight from Rouch is that fieldwork is disruptive. When we enter a field in order to study people, we become part of the ecology of that field, and our presence is not always a welcome one. To follow Rouch’s example, we must share what we are doing, inviting subjects to participate in the production of ethnographic knowledge: not to reconstruct a culture through their testimony, but to create a new world that mimics the process of contact, of exchange, of absorption and bewilderment. In short, we need a poetics of ethnography, in the sense of both ποίησις (to produce) and in the sense of poetry. To subvert Clifford Geertz’s analogy of interpretation as a fiction,20 we can think instead of ethnographic practice as a type of poetry: one that produces something by relational and metaphoric creativity. Jackson, also a poet, writes that a certain impulse toward metaphor and poetry is therapeutic: “In forging links between personal, social, and natural worlds and in reforging these links when we break them, poetry fosters wholeness of Being.”21 My contention is that this wholeness is actually akin to Taussig’s reformulation of the dialectical image: that which contains both the rupture of meaning and a surprising recognition.22 The power of approaching ethnographic work aesthetically is precisely to produce new realities and to unrest staid assumptions about how people live. In Louisiana, the assumptions come thick, stamped with an academic imprimatur that insists on symbolic webs of meaning and neat lines of cultural demarcation. The assumptions, embedded in popular representations, scholarly monographs, and tourist brochures, hold that the people of the Louisiana gulf coast must either live in folkloric systems or capitulate to mainstream American culture. Both options share the problem of fixity. For this reason, I chose to follow in Rouch’s path, rather than the path trod by ethnographers doing thick descriptions of culture. Thick description does not produce new worlds that people can share; it translates symbols from one context to another. The ethnographic work I intend to do in Louisiana requires me to attend to the relational and imaginative processes by which people find their way, forming lifeworlds they in which they can flourish, or at least get by. It requires me to enter their lifeworlds, to relate to them, to sense with my whole body the world in which they live, to wade through an uncertain space of possibility, in order to discern the processes and forces that they affect and by which they are affected.
This project will examine three thematic spaces: the trawl boat, the landscape, and the collection. Each of these spaces function as entryways to an unstable experience of time: imagining the future, imagining the present, and imagining the past. All three locations are associated with loss: the trawl boat with the dying seafood market, exemplified by the lack of boats during the annual boat blessing and the brain-and-muscle drain of new blood seeking sustenance elsewhere; the landscape with the progressive erosion of the very land upon which people live, the transformation of land into sea, and the increasing industrialization of habitable lands by chemical extractors; the collection with the past where things were better, where culture was stronger, where lives were lived with community, endurance, and sentiment. My project seeks to think of these three sites of loss as sites of unreal time, of threat and hope, of spaces of grounding in a barely livable world. The schematic of mapping modes of time to these places is loose: each site will see the past bleed into the future, the present retreating quickly into the past, and future-oriented thinking commandeering the actions of the present. For each space, I will enter, have conversations with people in that space, make short films, attune myself and my work to the atmospheres, imagine alongside and through the people I meet. This will serve as the core fieldwork component of Civilizations without Boats.
I will begin my fieldwork in March of 2015, documenting the Boat Blessing, which each year heralds the opening of shrimp season. Michel Foucault used the term “heterotopia” to mean micro-utopia that collapse time, space, official narratives, bodily intensity, and imagination. He named the boat “a heterotopia par excellence.”23 As the story goes, each year during the blessing of the fleet, there are fewer boats than before. One can point to this as evidence of a decline: people are abandoning traditional culture and labor, assimilating, selling out. Instead of beginning with the romantic tragedy of a declining heritage, I begin instead with boats that are metaphorically charged axes for hope. Despite the trend away from the sea-faring life, there are still those who do fish for a living, those who abandon other careers to devote themselves to shrimping, who embark on trawlboats in a civilization without boats. Foucault writes, “Civilizations without boats are like children whose parents have no bed upon which they can play; their dreams dry up, espionage replaces adventure, and the ugliness of police effaces the bright beauty of pirates.”24 It is my contention that we are not quite there.
My curiosity leads me to ask why do people still shrimp when doing so might actually be an obstacle to securing a good future—a point made abundantly clear by the 2010 Deep Water Horizon oil spill. During preliminary interviews, one shrimper told me how the spill cost him 90% of his income for that year, while another shrimper left his job that year to build a boat an begin a career shrimping. This paradox is what Lauren Berlant might call a relationship of “cruel optimism.”25 One of the major analytics for this portion of my research is how do people negotiate a future that is simultaneously attractive and deadly. In short, what do these shrimpers hope will happen? Additionally, while I am figuring the trawlboat as future-oriented, the act of imagining the future does not obey an arrow-like trajectory. José Muñoz, borrowing Bloch’s terminology, argues for queer utopian thinking and futurity that forms a concrete utopia, one is rooted in materialist history, one that longs for something other than the catastrophe of history. The remains of the past—living undead lives through archival and material traces, strange returns of marginalized figures, symbolic linkage, and the totalizing logic of subjectivation—allow us to imagine the present in such a way that imagines a future.26 His central argument is that to make a better world, we must attend to the naturalized and intractable structures of the present and to the phantoms and utopian longings glimpse in the past. We must write histories of the present, excavate the futures in the present. This is what I hope to do while trawling, filming, and talking to shrimpers on their boats, and what I will be compiling histories and representations of trawling in formal and informal archives and popular texts.27
After this first hitch, ending in June, 2015, I will draft the text for this first “chapter” on trawlboats. The next phase of Civilizations without Boats, beginning in September, 2015, will examine the landscape of southern Louisiana, with close attention on the geographic and imaginary routes connected to Chauvin. The major industry that has replaced trawling is offshore oil, which sees men driving to heliports scattered across the Gulf Coast, and their wives left to tend to onshore life. Here, the time period is the present, which recedes into the past and verges onto the future. Following the work of scholars like Brian Massumi, Kathleen Stewart, Paul Stoller, and Michael Jackson, my work will attempt to account for the ephemeral, sensuous, and atmospheric. It will imagine the present. Brian Massumi imagines the present as a continuum of reality suspended between two poles: the actual and the virtual. Here, what is actual is an effect of the “momentous meeting, mixing, and re-separation” of the “possible, potential, and virtual.”28 The virtual is “that which is maximally abstract yet real, whose reality is that of potential—pure relationality, the interval of change, the in-itself of transformation. It is a time that does not pass, that only comes to pass.”29 The present is the virtual linkage between the many possible futures and pasts, characterized by navigation, affect, and fantasy. My work here will be to construct realities through the ethnographic experience with my subjects, to change and be changed by them.
The methodology will be the same: interview, film, live, while also compiling repositories of archival traces and popular representations. Representational texts will include: television shows such as True Detective, True Blood, Swamp People, Duck Dynasty, and Cajun Justice; films such as Beasts of the Southern Wild, Belizaire the Cajun, Louisiana Story, and Eve’s Bayou; and paintings such as the “Blue Dog” series by George Rodrigue.30 These fictional depictions of the gulf coast landscape make salient both persisting notions of “what it’s like” to be emplaced in Louisiana and the politics and aesthetics involved in creating worlds made of places. They also inform the ways my subjects interact with their own landscape and the way “outsiders” make sense of that interaction. The south Louisiana landscape offers a particularly complicated and rich venue for the type of multimodal research required by this project. My subjects have grown up in a place where the Gulf eats away at their properties and big oil insinuates itself into their world with pipes, toxins, and cancers. They are heavy commuters. They sometimes travel by boat. I will pay particular attention to the way in which my subjects articulate their experience of moving from an actuality, a past, into a murky, half-realized future. I will try to match how popular depictions of their world contribute to their own worldmaking. I will examine how they “make do.”
I will be conducting this part of my research at the end of storm season. Each year, Chauvin, like other coastal towns, becomes heavy with the threat of flood and wind. People make preparations. People, sometimes, evacuate. But most often, nothing actually happens. One of my goals in this portion of fieldwork is to test the boundaries of this nothing, to see how much the habitual threat of hurricanes shifts the experience of landscape, ecology, and imagination. I want to see how much this shift interacts with the shifts caused by impending and remembered environmental and industrial disaster. Although this section is more diffuse a site than either the trawl boat or the collection, my research will be precisely after the sedimented spatial imaginaries that produce the real and unreal landscape of Chauvin and the Louisiana gulf coast. I will seek out subjects who commute three hours to work offshore every month, fishers and hunters who move with the changing of open game and fish seasons, families who evacuate when the threat of flood looms, and people who have seen the landscape undergo a radical transformation into something more porous and wet over the course of their lives. This research will be about movement, change, and the ways people find their way in an increasingly perilous ecosystem.
I will produce film and writing on landscape and during the winter of 2015–2016 and return for my final hitch in Louisiana in March, 2016, to begin work on collections and the past. The act of collecting, whether in people’s homes or in institutional archives, is an act of curation, of caring for a past. It gathers together the remains of a past that people want to remember. Collecting is an act of imagination, of projecting the present self to the past, one whose reality is mustered by the actual, material reminders of finished events and the virtual connections and attachments that gather them together. And these objects in collections, whether stuffed in boxes in an attic or in museum-like displays in homes, are ways people might imagine their pasts. For this section, I will focus primarily on personal collections as opposed to institutional ones. I am most interested in private cabinets of curiosity, the kinds of collections that people might dismiss as affectations, sentimentality, or eccentricity. While state and church archives offer rich ways of imagining the past, my project focuses on the smaller worlds people make: the ones that give them hope, the ones that haunt them. During my first two hitches conducting fieldwork, I will identify people in Chauvin that have extensive collections in areas like industrial artifacts and antiques, pop culture memorabilia, “Cajun” mementos, vehicles, guns, and genealogical records. I will also catalogue the small museums and archives in Chauvin and the surrounding areas such as the Regional Military Museum (which holds exhibits on the area’s involvement in World War II), the Chauvin Sculpture Garden (a collection of life-size statues of cowboys, angels, and a lighthouse, festooned with kabalistic symbols, mysteriously left at a Chauvin rental home by artist Kenny Hill), and the Southdown Plantation. I will interview the collectors and curators on their collections, film tours of their holdings, and take photographs of particular items. Throughout the research, I will, of course, also be collecting: interview subjects, images, archival traces, stories, histories, economic data, jokes, recipes, maps, language, friends, and enemies.
I will be looking for what Walter Benjamin calls “dialectical images.” Benjamin writes that the dialectical image “is that wherein what has been comes together in a flash with the now to form a constellation,” it is “dialectics at a standstill.”31 This flash is the storm that propels the angel of history into the future.32 This flash is the emergence-point of the virtual fringing the actual. I will be looking for this flash, the simultaneity of recognition and discontinuity, in people’s collections. I am searching for worlds that are reconfigurations of the past to make a livable present. Following Benjamin and Foucault’s understandings of history, I see the past as something of accidents and ruptures. This is what imagining the past means: reaching toward the leftovers from the worlds that emerged and then disappeared. These worlds have only disappeared in the most literal sense. They are invisible. The task of the genealogist,33 the imaginer of pasts, is to render them visible, to show how they still impinge on the present, to let them haunt us. The task of the historian, for Foucault, is to exorcise these ghosts, to assimilate them into a narrative that we in the present have conquered. Instead, Foucault proposes that merely raise these ghosts in order to speak with them, to see if we can figure out the accidents that silenced them. For my study of collections, I hope to conjure ghosts from the things people cull and store and display and reflect upon. I also want to see to what degree these mostly amateur curators are historians or genealogists. I hope to draw lines between these imagined pasts with my subjects’ hopes for the future and their experiences of living in a compromised, ad-hoc present.
Each analysis of temporality—whether oriented from the past, present, or future—requires recursion: the infolding of other temporal logics. This is what it means to imagine how people live their lives: to be attuned to the ambiguous and contingent ways they imagine their lives, at the diffuse or violent collision between bodies and forces and the longing for something better. This atmosphere, this virtuality, this history of the present, this queer utopia—this imagining, becoming life is the analytical yield of the imagination: a politics of thinking things differently. This project will enact this politics by focusing on these unlikely and recursive times as they play out in specific places where people live, work, and reminisce. I am committed to not recording the facts, the official stories, and so-called cultural quirks of my subjects, but to make these worlds with them. Borrowing Rouch’s language,34 I want this research to be a form of mutual possession, to be a figure of intolerable disorder that impedes an easy understanding of these people and the totalizing impulse of scholars studying people on the brink of disaster. My day-to-day life in Chauvin will be to confront and conspire with subjects through interviews, shared moviemaking, conversations about what life is and what it might be. My writing and moviemaking will reflect a fieldwork plan based on following virtual lines of flight and attunement to chance, recognition, shock, and the quieter accretion of new worlds. Even if the conventional wisdom about Chauvin rapidly losing its boats is true, perhaps in a civilization without boats, the imaginative energy that burrows out a heterotopia finds its expression elsewhere. My research project is to find this elsewhere and contribute to it.
The final product will be a collection of brief scholarly texts35 (at about seven to fifteen pages each) and short films36 (of three to fifteen minute duration) organized around my three hitches. Each hitch’s writing and postproduction component will follow the intensive ethnographic and film production work. The reason for separating the three case studies in this manner is to limit the focus of each field and to fully surrender to the topic during the writing/filmmaking. Writing between hitches will also allow me to return to the sites after processing the work, enabling me to reshoot scenes, follow-up with interview subjects, and to otherwise identify sections that require further work. After the three hitches and the writing and filmmaking is finished, I will be able to identify whether to organize the dissertation into three “traditional” chapters, comprised of sections of text and embedded film, or whether the final product might be better served by a yet undiscovered thematic organization that weaves through each hitch. Either way, the dissertation will include both essays—both lyric and scholarly—and short films.37
I went to New Orleans for college—a place that seemed like the best prospect to begin life as a writer, one whose cost of living could be mitigated by its proximity to my family. I lived halfway in a Chauvin aesthetic while distancing myself from it: working offshore during the summers, integrating into a group of writers during the school year. One summer, after returning from a fourteen-day hitch in the Gulf of Mexico, I left for a poetry fellowship at Bucknell University. This change—from twelve-hour days of manual labor to a life of creativity, glibness, and friendships based on mutual interest—allowed me to recognize an impossibility about my life, and I quit my job in offshore oil immediately. Later that summer, the deluges of 2005.
I became interested in Louisiana under evacuation to Chicago, watching my hometown flooded on national television. In the sullen ruins of New Orleans, I began researching Louisiana in earnest: collecting books, helping a professor restore his moldy New Orleans research, learning the “Cajun” arts (dancing, cooking, speaking French, playing accordion, telling jokes). I preemptively evacuated to Paris in a French-language immersion program. While there, I found the traces my family left in Nantes in the eighteenth century. I also applied for a Fulbright grant to write poems in Acadie.
I was in a romantic frame of mind when I moved into a student apartment near Université de Moncton. The weird urban culture of contemporary Acadians jolted me out of my passéisme, making me suspicious of my own rigid definitions of cultural boundaries. While there, I took classes in folklore, linguistics, Acadian literature, and translation. I also wrote a lot of poems.
My vocation has always been to write, and though I undertook a massive research project in Canada, the next step for me was always to enroll in a Masters of Fine Arts program in creative writing. I started at Cornell the next year. My experience as a writer—both alone in Canada and in the workshop at Cornell—shapes my project deeply: I know the small things words do, actions that erase themselves. I’ve struggled with the problem of representation, what kinds of cruelties result from it. I’ve also experimented with different forms, ones whose rhetoric might offer something different than a capturing in words of a people. One of the research questions that incites this project is how is it possible to study and communicate the ephemeral performances of life without killing them or, worse, having them stand in for people. Without being a poet, I would not be able to do justice to this question.
Cornell trained me well in the discourses of the literary-inflected humanities: critical, queer, and postcolonial theories, deconstruction, trauma, psychoanalysis. This study continued at Emory University. The most influential courses for my thinking on this project have been on postcolonial theory, Foucault, queer theory, aesthetics, experimental scholarship, digital humanities, and human geography. I also work with scholarship in Southern Studies, a branch of American Studies, through my work as an editorial assistant for Southern Spaces.
I never fully left Chauvin. I cofounded a nonprofit there in 2009: T-Possibility, which has held an annual festival for four years now and is building a cultural center dedicated to facilitating creative and cultural work in Chauvin. I still read and speak French, including Cajun and Chiac dialects. I know how to be outside, drive a boat, trawl, hunt, peel a shrimp, lay flooring, gut houses, boil crawfish, ride a motorcycle, and relate to people who don’t spend their days reading hard books. I know the people, archives, and popular stories of Chauvin—I’m part of it.
In 2013, I returned to Chauvin to begin fieldwork. I had a serendipitous meeting with a grad student, Lindsey Feldman, from University of Arizona, who was doing work for the Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology. She taught me how to do interviews, keep paperwork, seek interesting leads, and have fun doing ethnographies. I helped her meet people, find a place, to stay, and understand the contexts of the people she interviewed. That trip to the field has well prepared me to return and has given me a better understanding of how to do an ethnographic project on emergent, indefinable imaginative actions that comprise and contradict culture.
This project asks: How do people negotiate the actual and virtual landscapes that constitute their lives? How do people imagine themselves in concert with other people, withstanding storm and oil, mass media and old-timey wisdom, poverty and industrialization? What do people fantasize about anyway? How do they cling to life?
This project tries to make sense of imagination and its shadow, reality. Civilizations without Boats explores how imagination incarnate without reducing the heterogeneity of the people or place that brings it forth, what role external forces play in the small-town imaginarium, and how people deal with the magic of being connected to something even as they construct and are constructed by regimes of institutional fantasy, even as it kills them, even as it gives them hope. Maybe, along the way, we might understand what is important about the connections people make to different people and places that are simultaneously real and utterly unreal and how these things come to be—information crucial to people withstanding effacement from without (ecological disaster) or from within (apathy), and to people who might intervene in culture through art or activism. Maybe we will come away with a more complicated notion of time, where notions of past, present, and future slips and recede into one another, themselves turning into places, charged with the intensity of worlds being born, of worlds quietly dying.
Maybe it is possible to salvage enunciations written into obscurity, ones whispered too softly to hear, remixing them into a lyric reality that might disrupt the terrible trajectory of belief and reification. This hope (for something like creativity) is important, because as the stories become fixtures in living imaginations, they become restraints. They become levees that demarcate whose house will survive a flood and whose house is left with a foot of mud, soggy mattresses, and drooping ceiling fans. They become membership cards that exclude, limit, and oppress people. Stories, once stone, can break arms. In Chauvin, the fate of selling the spectacle of heritage is as naturalized as working to survive in the United States. Writing over, scratching out, filling-in, and subverting the terms of this belief has the potential to disrupt this slow march towards capitulating to the powers-that-be who demand certain people accept the fate of being the dumping ground for America’s industrial shit, of suffering rising waters and sinking land, who say that a person born in Chauvin must either accept assimilation into a vague Americana or embrace a folkloric identity.
I believe that Civilizations without Boats makes a critical intervention in Louisiana studies, tests the boundaries of ethnographic possibility, and provides a countermeasure against facts and stories that might seek to define and therefore control populations in small towns. I believe this work is important because it allows us to think things differently about who these people are, what counts as reality or culture, and what new and terrible worlds we might make up next.
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———. Cajun Country. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1991.
———. Cajun Music: Its Origins and Development. Lafayette: Center for Louisiana Studies, 1989.
———. ‘Capitaine, Voyage Ton Flag’: The Traditional Cajun Country Mardi Gras. Lafayette: Center for Louisiana Studies, 1989.
———. “Negotiating the Mainstream: The Creoles and Cajuns in Louisiana.” The French Review 80, no. 6 (2007): 1235-55.
———. One Generation at a Time: Biography of a Cajun and Creole Music Festival. Lafayette: Center for Louisiana Studies, 2007.
———. “The Theory and Practice of Activist Folklore: From Fieldwork to Programming.” In Working the Field: Accounts from French Louisiana, edited by Jacques M. Henry and Sara LeMenestrel, 81–100. Westport: Praeger, 2003.
Ball, Alan. True Blood. HBO, 2008.
Barthes, Roland. The Pleasure of the Text. New York: Hill and Wang, 1975.
Benjamin, Walter. The Arcades Project. Edited by Rolf Tiedemann. Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1999.
———. “Theses on the Philosophy of History.” In Illuminations, edited by Hannah Arendt, 253–64. New York: Shocken Books, 2007.
Berlant, Lauren. Cruel Optimism. Durham: Duke University Press, 2011.
Bernard, Shane. The Cajuns: Americanization of a People. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2003.
———. Swamp Pop: Cajun and Creole Rhythm and Blues. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1996.
Big Shrimpin’. History Channel, 2011–2015.
Blank, Les, Chris Strachwitz, and Maureen Gosling. “J’ai été au bal: Roots of Cajun and Zydeco Music.” Brazos Films, 2003.
Bloch, Ernst. Heritage of Our Times. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.
———. The Principle of Hope. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1986.
Borders, Florence. “Researching Creole and Cajun Musics in New Orleans.” Black Music Research Journal 8, no. 1 (1988): 15-31.
Brasseaux, Carl. French, Cajun, Creole, Houma: A Primer on Francophone Louisiana. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2005.
Brasseaux, Ryan. Cajun Breakdown: The Emergence of an American-Made Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.
Brasseaux, Ryan, and Kevin Fontenot. Accordions, Fiddles, Two Step & Swing: A Cajun Music Reader. Lafayette, LA: Center for Louisiana Studies, 2006.
Caffery, Joshua Clegg. Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana: The 1934 Lomax Recordings. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2013.
Cajun Justice. A&E, 2012.
Camoin, Cécilia. Louisiane: la Théâtralité comme Force de Vie. Paris: PUPS, 2013.
Castaing-Taylor, Lucien, and Véréna Paravel. Leviathan. New York: Cinema Guild., 2013.
Comeaux, Malcolm. “The Cajun Barn.” Geographical Review 79, no. 1 (1989): 47-62.
Conrad, Glenn, ed. The Cajuns: Essays on Their History and Culture. Lafayette: Center for Louisiana Studies, 1978.
Cunningham, Joe. Raising Shrimp. Coconut Grove: Fish Navy Films, 2013.
David, Marc. “(Re)Turn of the Native: Insider Ethnography and the Politics of Fieldwork in South Louisiana.” In Working the Field: Accounts from French Louisiana, edited by Jacques M. Henry and Sara LeMenestrel, 101–20. Westport: Praeger, 2003.
de Certeau, Michel. The Practice of Everyday Life. Translated by Stephen F. Rendall. Edited by Luce Giard. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984.
Del Sesto, Steven, and Jon Gibson. The Culture of Acadiana: Tradition and Change in South Louisiana. Lafayette: University of Southwestern Louisiana, 1975.
Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987.
———. What Is Philosophy? New York: Columbia University Press, 1994.
DeWitt, Mark. Cajun and Zydeco Dance Music in Northern California: Modern Pleasures in a Postmodern World. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2008.
Dormon, James. The People Called Cajuns: An Introduction to an Ethnohistory. Lafayette: Center for Louisiana Studies, 1983.
Dubois, Sylvie, and Barbara Horvath. “Creoles and Cajuns: A Portrait in Black and White.” American Speech 78, no. 2 (2003): 192-207.
———. “Sounding Cajun: The Rhetorical Use of Dialect in Speech and Writing.” American Speech 77, no. 3 (2002): 264-87.
Duck Dynasty. A&E, 2012.
Esman, Marjorie. “Festivals, Change, and Unity: The Celebration of Ethnic Identity among Louisiana Cajuns.” Anthropological Quarterly 55, no. 4 (1982): 199-210.
Estaville, Lawrence Jr. “Changeless Cajuns: Nineteenth-Century Reality or Myth?”. Louisiana History 28, no. 2 (1987): 117-40.
Fincher, David. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Warner Brothers, 2008.
Flaherty, Robert J. Louisiana Story. Robert Flaherty Productions, 1948.
Foucault, Michel. The Archaeology of Knowledge; and the Discourse on Language. New York: Pantheon Books, 1972.
———. Les Hétérotopies. Bry-sur-marne, France: L’Institute national de l’audiovisuel, 2004.
———. “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History.” Translated by Donald F. Bouchard and Sherry Simon. In Aesthetics, Method, and Epistemology. New York: The New Press, 1977.
Fukunaga, Cary Joji. True Detective. HBO, 2014.
Gambit, comic book character. X-Men. New York: Marvel Comics, 1990–present.
Geertz, Clifford. The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays. New York: Basic Books, 1973.
Glissant, Édouard. Poetics of Relation. Translated by Betsy Wing Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1990.
Gould, Philip. Les cadiens d’asteur. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1991.
Green, Joe. “The Louisiana Cajuns: The Quest for Identity through Education.” Theory into Practice 20, no. 1 (1981): 63-69.
Hallowell, Christopher. People of the Bayou: Cajun Life in Lost America. New York: Dutton, 1979.
Hebert-Leiter, Maria. Becoming Cajun, Becoming American: The Acadian in American Literature from Longfellow to James Lee Burke. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2009.
Henry, Jacques. “From ‘Acadien’ to ‘Cajun’ to ‘Cadien’: Ethnic Labelization and Construction of Identity.” Journal of American Ethnic History 17, no. 4 (1998): 29-62.
———. “What Has Become of the Cajuns of Yore?”. Louisiana History 46, no. 4 (2005): 465-81.
Henry, Jacques, and Carl L. Bankston, III. Blue Collar Bayou: Louisiana Cajuns in the New Economy of Ethnicity. Westport: Praeger, 2002.
Heylen, Romy. “Kill the Devil or Marry an American: Descent and Consent among the Cajuns.” The French Review 67, no. 3 (1994): 453-65.
Ingold, Tim. The Perception of the Environment: Essays on Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill. New York: Routledge, 2000.
Jackson, Michael. Paths toward a Clearing: Radical Empiricism and Ethnographic Inquiry. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989.
James, William. Essays in Radical Empiricism. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1976.
LeMenestrel, Sara. “French music, cajun, creole, zydeco: Ligne de couleur et hiérarchies sociales dans la musique franco-louisianaise.” Civilisations 53, no. 1/2 (2006): 119-47.
Lemmons, Kasi. Eve’s Bayou. Trimark Pictures, 1997.
Lindahl, Carl. “The Presence of the Past in the Cajun Country Mardi Gras.” Journal of Folklore Research 33, no. 2 (1996): 125-53.
MacDougall, David. To Live with Herds. Berkeley: University of California Extension Media Center, 1973.
Massumi, Brian. Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation. Durham: Duke University Press, 2002.
Motz, George. Head On: Shrimping in the Lowcountry. Vimeo, 2014.
Muñoz, José Esteban. Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity. New York: NYU Press, 2009.
Natsis, James. “Legislation and Language: The Politics of Speaking French in Louisiana.” The French Review 73, no. 2 (1999): 325-31.
Paravel, Véréna, and J. P. Sniadecki. Foreign Parts. New York: Kino Lorber, 2011.
Pitre, Glen. Belizaire the Cajun. Cote Blanche Productions, 1986.
Rees, Mark. “From ‘Grand Dérangement’ to Acadiana: History and Identity in the Landscape of South Louisiana.” International Journal of Historical Archaeology 12, no. 4 (2008): 338-59.
Reese, William Dean, and Charles McKinley Allen. Mamou: Acadian Folklore, Natural History, and Botany of the Mamou Plant. Lafayette: Center for Louisiana Studies, 2004.
Rottet, Kevin. Language Shift in the Coastal Marshes of Louisiana. New York: P. Lang, 2001.
Rouch, Jean. Ciné-Ethnography. Translated by Steven Feld. Edited by Steven Feld. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003.
———. Les maîtres fous. Brooklyn: Icarus Films, 2010.
———. Moi, un noir. Brooklyn: Icarus Films, 2010.
———. Tourou et Bitti, Jean Rouch: Le geste cinématographique. France: Editions Montparnasse, 2005.
Rouch, Jean, and Edgar Morin. Chronique d’un été. New York: Criterion Collection, 2013.
Rushton, William Faulkner. The Cajuns: From Acadia to Louisiana. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1979.
Sexton, Rocky. “Cajun and Creole Treaters: Magico-Religious Folk Healing in French Louisiana.” Western Folklore 51, no. 3/4 (1992): 237-48.
———. “Cajun Mardi Gras: Cultural Objectification and Symbolic Appropriation in a French Tradition.” Ethnology 38, no. 4 (1999): 297-313.
———. “Cajun or Coonass? Exploring Ethnic Labels in French Louisiana Regional Discourse.” Ethnology 48, no. 4 (2009): 269-94.
———. “Cajun-French Language Maintenance and Shift: A Southwest Louisiana Case Study to 1970.” Journal of American Ethnic History 19, no. 4 (2000): 24-48.
———. “Ritualized Inebriation, Violence, and Social Control in Cajun Mardi Gras.” Anthropological Quarterly 74, no. 1 (2001): 28-38.
Smith, Lindsay. “Cajun Music: The Oral Poetry of the Cajun People.” Emory University Dissertation, 1995.
Sniadecki, J. P. Demolition. Watertown: Documentary Educational Resources, 2008.
———. Songhua. Watertown: Documentary Educational Resources, 2007.
Spray, Stephanie A. Monsoon-Reflections. Watertown: Documentary Educational Resources, 2010.
Stewart, Kathleen. “Atmospheric Attunements.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 29, no. 3 (2011): 445-53.
———. Ordinary Affects. Durham: Duke University Press, 2007.
———. A Space on the Side of the Road: Cultural Poetics in an “Other” America. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996.
Stivale, Charles. Disenchanting les Bons Temps: Identity and Authenticity in Cajun Music and Dance. Durham: Duke University Press, 2003.
Stoller, Paul. Sensuous Scholarship. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997.
Swamp People. History Channel, 2010–2014.
Taussig, Michael. I Swear I Saw This: Drawings in Fieldwork Notebooks, Namely My Own. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011.
———. Mimesis and Alterity: A Particular History of the Senses. New York: Routledge, 1993.
Tentchoff, Dorice. “Ethnic Survival under Anglo-American Hegemony: The Louisiana Cajuns.” Anthropological Quarterly 53, no. 4 (1980): 229-41.
Tidwell, Mike. Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana’s Cajun Coast. New York: Pantheon Books, 2003.
Trawlermen. Birmingham: BBC, 2006–2009.
Trépanier, Cécyle. “The Cajunization of French Louisiana: Forging a Regional Identity.” The Geographical Journal 157, no. 2 (1991): 161-71.
Ware, Carolyn. Cajun Women and Mardi Gras: Reading the Rules Backward. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007.
Webre, Stephen. “Among the Cybercajuns: Constructing Identity in the Virtual Diaspora.” Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association 39, no. 4 (1998): 443-56.
Wiley, Eric. “Wilderness Theatre: Environmental Tourism and Cajun Swamp Tours.” The Drama Review 46, no. 3 (2002): 118-31.
Zeitlin, Benh. Beasts of the Southern Wild. Cinereach, 2012.
Zemeckis, Robert. Forrest Gump. Paramount, 1994.
- Glenn Conrad, ed. The Cajuns: Essays on Their History and Culture (Lafayette: Center for Louisiana Studies, 1978). [↩︎]
- For a well-cited history written in a “local color” style (replete with a bewildering section of portraits of Cajun “celebrities” and concepts, as well as a discussion of “Cajunism” as a “neo-pagan” practice) see William Faulkner Rushton, The Cajuns: From Acadia to Louisiana (New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1979). For the first serious treatment of Cajuns from a sociocultural perspective, see James Dormon, The People Called Cajuns: An Introduction to an Ethnohistory (Lafayette: Center for Louisiana Studies, 1983). [↩︎]
- See Shane Bernard, The Cajuns: Americanization of a People (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2003); Marjorie Esman, “Festivals, Change, and Unity: The Celebration of Ethnic Identity among Louisiana Cajuns,” Anthropological Quarterly 55, no. 4 (1982); Joe Green, “The Louisiana Cajuns: The Quest for Identity through Education,” Theory into Practice 20, no. 1 (1981); Jacques Henry, “From “Acadien” to “Cajun” to “Cadien”: Ethnic Labelization and Construction of Identity,” Journal of American Ethnic History 17, no. 4 (1998); Jacques Henry and Carl L. Bankston, III, Blue Collar Bayou: Louisiana Cajuns in the New Economy of Ethnicity (Westport: Praeger, 2002); Romy Heylen, “Kill the Devil or Marry an American: Descent and Consent among the Cajuns,” The French Review 67, no. 3 (1994); Mark Rees, “From “Grand Dérangement” to Acadiana: History and Identity in the Landscape of South Louisiana,” International Journal of Historical Archaeology 12, no. 4 (2008); Charles Stivale, Disenchanting les Bons Temps: Identity and Authenticity in Cajun Music and Dance (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003); Dorice Tentchoff, “Ethnic Survival under Anglo-American Hegemony: The Louisiana Cajuns,” Anthropological Quarterly 53, no. 4 (1980); Cécyle Trépanier, “The Cajunization of French Louisiana: Forging a Regional Identity,” The Geographical Journal 157, no. 2 (1991); Stephen Webre, “Among the Cybercajuns: Constructing Identity in the Virtual Diaspora,” Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association 39, no. 4 (1998). [↩︎]
- See Barry Jean Ancelet, “Negotiating the Mainstream: The Creoles and Cajuns in Louisiana,” The French Review 80, no. 6 (2007); Bernard, The Cajuns; Carl Brasseaux, French, Cajun, Creole, Houma: A Primer on Francophone Louisiana (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2005); Cécilia Camoin, Louisiane: la Théâtralité comme Force de Vie (Paris: PUPS, 2013); Sylvie Dubois and Barbara Horvath, “Sounding Cajun: The Rhetorical Use of Dialect in Speech and Writing,” American Speech 77, no. 3 (2002); Green, “The Louisiana Cajuns.”; Maria Hebert-Leiter, Becoming Cajun, Becoming American: The Acadian in American Literature from Longfellow to James Lee Burke (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2009); Rocky Sexton, “Cajun or Coonass? Exploring Ethnic Labels in French Louisiana Regional Discourse,” Ethnology 48, no. 4 (2009); “Cajun Mardi Gras: Cultural Objectification and Symbolic Appropriation in a French Tradition,” Ethnology 38, no. 4 (1999); Tentchoff, “Ethnic Survival under Anglo-American Hegemony”; Trépanier, “The Cajunization of French Louisiana”; Webre, “Among the Cybercajuns.”; Eric Wiley, “Wilderness Theatre: Environmental Tourism and Cajun Swamp Tours,” The Drama Review 46, no. 3 (2002). [↩︎]
- See Ancelet, “Negotiating the Mainstream.”; Cajun Country, ed. Jay Dearborn Edwards and Glen Pitre (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1991); ‘Capitaine, Voyage Ton Flag’: The Traditional Cajun Country Mardi Gras, ed. James Edmunds (Lafayette: Center for Louisiana Studies, 1989); “The Theory and Practice of Activist Folklore: From Fieldwork to Programming,” in Working the Field: Accounts from French Louisiana, ed. Jacques M. Henry and Sara LeMenestrel (Westport: Praeger, 2003); Camoin, Louisiane; Malcolm Comeaux, “The Cajun Barn,” Geographical Review 79, no. 1 (1989); Steven Del Sesto and Jon Gibson, The Culture of Acadiana: Tradition and Change in South Louisiana (Lafayette: University of Southwestern Louisiana, 1975); Lawrence Jr. Estaville, “Changeless Cajuns: Nineteenth-Century Reality or Myth?,” Louisiana History 28, no. 2 (1987); Philip Gould, Les Cadiens D’asteur (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1991); Christopher Hallowell, People of the Bayou: Cajun Life in Lost America (New York: Dutton, 1979); Carl Lindahl, “The Presence of the Past in the Cajun Country Mardi Gras,” Journal of Folklore Research 33, no. 2 (1996); Rocky Sexton, “Cajun and Creole Treaters: Magico-Religious Folk Healing in French Louisiana,” Western Folklore 51, no. 3/4 (1992); “Ritualized Inebriation, Violence, and Social Control in Cajun Mardi Gras,” Anthropological Quarterly 74, no. 1 (2001); Dorice Tentchoff, “Ethnic Survival under Anglo-American Hegemony: The Louisiana Cajuns,” ibid.53, no. 4 (1980); Mike Tidwell, Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana’s Cajun Coast (New York: Pantheon Books, 2003); Carolyn Ware, Cajun Women and Mardi Gras: Reading the Rules Backward (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007). [↩︎]
- See Barry Jean Ancelet, Cajun Music: Its Origins and Development (Lafayette: Center for Louisiana Studies, 1989); One Generation at a Time: Biography of a Cajun and Creole Music Festival, ed. Philip Gould, Biography of a Cajun and Creole Music Festival (Lafayette: Center for Louisiana Studies, 2007); Cajun and Creole Folktales: The French Oral Tradition of South Louisiana (New York: Garland, 1994); Joshua Clegg Caffery, Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana: The 1934 Lomax Recordings (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2013); Shane Bernard, Swamp Pop: Cajun and Creole Rhythm and Blues, ed. Inc NetLibrary and Inc Net Library (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1996); Les Blank, Chris Strachwitz, and Maureen Gosling, “J’ai Été Au Bal: Roots of Cajun and Zydeco Music,” (Brazos Films, 2003); Florence Borders, “Researching Creole and Cajun Musics in New Orleans,” Black Music Research Journal 8, no. 1 (1988); Ryan Brasseaux, Cajun Breakdown: The Emergence of an American-Made Music (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009); Ryan Brasseaux and Kevin Fontenot, Accordions, Fiddles, Two Step & Swing: A Cajun Music Reader (Lafayette, LA: Center for Louisiana Studies, 2006); Sara LeMenestrel, “French Music, Cajun, Creole, Zydeco: Ligne de Couleur Et Hiérarchies Sociales Dans la Musique Franco-Louisianaise,” Civilisations 53, no. 1/2 (2006); William Dean Reese and Charles McKinley Allen, Mamou: Acadian Folklore, Natural History, and Botany of the Mamou Plant (Lafayette: Center for Louisiana Studies, 2004); Lindsay Smith, “Cajun Music: The Oral Poetry of the Cajun People” (Emory University, 1995); Stivale, Disenchanting les Bons Temps. [↩︎]
- Brasseaux, French, Cajun, Creole, Houma; Marc David, “(Re)Turn of the Native: Insider Ethnography and the Politics of Fieldwork in South Louisiana,” in Working the Field: Accounts from French Louisiana, ed. Jacques M. Henry and Sara LeMenestrel (Westport: Praeger, 2003); Mark DeWitt, Cajun and Zydeco Dance Music in Northern California: Modern Pleasures in a Postmodern World (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2008); Dubois and Horvath, “Sounding Cajun.”; “Creoles and Cajuns: A Portrait in Black and White,” American Speech 78, no. 2 (2003); Esman, “Festivals, Change, and Unity.”; Jacques Henry, “What Has Become of the Cajuns of Yore?,” Louisiana History 46, no. 4 (2005); Henry and Bankston, Blue Collar Bayou; Heylen, “Kill the Devil or Marry an American.”; James Natsis, “Legislation and Language: The Politics of Speaking French in Louisiana,” ibid.73, no. 2 (1999); Kevin Rottet, Language Shift in the Coastal Marshes of Louisiana (New York: P. Lang, 2001); Rocky Sexton, “Cajun-French Language Maintenance and Shift: A Southwest Louisiana Case Study to 1970,” Journal of American Ethnic History 19, no. 4 (2000); Tentchoff, “Ethnic Survival under Anglo-American Hegemony.”; Trépanier, “The Cajunization of French Louisiana.” [↩︎]
- Radical empiricism as a scholarly practice has a long lineage. First introduced by William James, it has most recently been taken up by Brian Massumi as a methodology for understanding the “reality” of virtuality, affect, and relationality, and by Michael Jackson as a sensuous, attentive ethnographic methodology. Massumi also associates radical empiricism with “incorporeal materialism” from the work of Michel Foucault. See Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge; and the Discourse on Language (New York: Pantheon Books, 1972), 231; Michael Jackson, Paths toward a Clearing: Radical Empiricism and Ethnographic Inquiry (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989), 8; William James, Essays in Radical Empiricism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1976); Brian Massumi, Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation (Durham: Duke University Press, 2002), 16. [↩︎]
- For my use of “atmospheric attunements,” see Kathleen Stewart, “Atmospheric Attunements,” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 29, no. 3 (2011): 446. [↩︎]
- Michael Jackson, who is a poet and an anthropologist, identifies with radical empiricism, which he explains as “Eschewing the supervisory perspective of traditional empiricism… the radical empiricist tries to avoid fixed viewpoints by dispersing authorship, working through all five senses, and reflecting inwardly as well as observing outwardly.” Jackson, Paths toward a Clearing, 8. [↩︎]
- Tim Ingold, The Perception of the Environment: Essays on Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill (New York: Routledge, 2000), 140. [↩︎]
- According Massumi’s interpretation of Deleuze and Guattari, it shares with William James a “radical empiricism,” a term that Deleuze and Guattari themselves discuss as “When immanence is no longer immanent to something other than itself” in What Is Philosophy? (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), 46. See also Massumi, Parables for the Virtual. [↩︎]
- Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), 15. [↩︎]
- Ingold, The Perception of the Environment, 4–5. [↩︎]
- Stoller defines “sensuous scholarship” as that “in which writers tack between the analytical and the sensible, in which embodied form as well as disembodied logic constitute scholarly argument.” Stoller identifies in academic ethnography a privilege accorded to semiotics, textuality, and structuralist accounts for human behavior at the expense of the lived experience shared by the fieldworker and the people she encounters. Sensuous scholarship “demands the full presence of the ethnographer’s body in the field… that ethnographers open themselves to others and absorb their worlds.” Sensuous Scholarship (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997), 23. [↩︎]
- Taussig foregrounds the precise moment of seeing in ethnographic work as already a moment of embodiment through the concept of mimesis. He writes, “To ponder mimesis is to become sooner or later caught… in sticky webs of copy and contact, image and bodily involvement of the perceiver in the image, a complexity we too easily elide as nonmysterious, with our facile use of terms such as identification, representation, expression, and so forth—terms which simultaneously depend upon and erase all that is powerful and obscure in the network of associations conjured by the notion of the mimetic.” Mimesis and Alterity: A Particular History of the Senses (New York: Routledge, 1993), 21. [↩︎]
- Ingold writes, “To find one’s way is to advance along a line of growth, in a world which is never quite the same from one moment to the next, and whose future configuration can never be fully known. Ways of life are not therefore determined in advance, as routes to be followed, but have continually to be worked out anew. And these ways, far from being inscribed upon the surface of an inanimate world, are the very threads from which the living world is woven” The Perception of the Environment, 242. [↩︎]
- Jean Rouch, Ciné-Ethnography, trans. Steven Feld (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003), 99. For the film, see Tourou Et Bitti, Jean Rouch: Le geste cinématographique (France: Editions Montparnasse, 2005). [↩︎]
- Ciné-Ethnography, 100. [↩︎]
- Geertz writes that the texts ethnographers write are “fictions, in the sense that [interpretations] are ‘something made’ … not that they are false, unfactual, or merely ‘as if’ thought experiments.” Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays (New York: Basic Books, 1973), 15. [↩︎]
- Jackson, Paths toward a Clearing, 154. [↩︎]
- Taussig defines the dialectical image as “dislocating chains of concordance with one hand, reconstellating in accord with a mimetic snap, with the other.” Mimesis and Alterity, 19. [↩︎]
- Michel Foucault, Les Hétérotopies (Bry-sur-marne, France: L’Institute national de l’audiovisuel, 2004). My translation. [↩︎]
- Ibid. [↩︎]
- She writes, “ Cruel optimism is when something you desire is actually an obstacle to your flourishing.” Lauren Berlant, Cruel Optimism (Durham: Duke University Press, 2011), 1. [↩︎]
- José Esteban Muñoz, Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity (New York: NYU Press, 2009), 12. [↩︎]
- I will consult newspaper articles, documentaries, and scholarly works about trawling, as well as depictions of trawling/commercial fishing in television shows, narrative cinema and comics. For documentaries, see Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel, Leviathan (New York: Cinema Guild., 2013); George Motz, Head On: Shrimping in the Lowcountry (Vimeo2014); Joe Cunningham, Raising Shrimp (Coconut Grove: Fish Navy Films, 2013). For television shows, see Cajun Justice, (A&E, 2012); Swamp People, (History Channel, 2010–2014); Trawlermen, (Birmingham: BBC, 2006–2009); Big Shrimpin’, (History Channel, 2011–2015). For films, see Robert Zemeckis, Forrest Gump (Paramount, 1994); David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Warner Brothers, 2008); Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild (Cinereach, 2012). For comics, see comic book character Gambit, X-Men (New York: Marvel Comics, 1990–present). [↩︎]
- Massumi, Parables for the Virtual, 136. [↩︎]
- Ibid., 58. [↩︎]
- Cary Joji Fukunaga, True Detective (HBO, 2014); Alan Ball, True Blood (HBO, 2008); Swamp People; Duck Dynasty, (A&E, 2012); Cajun Justice; Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild; Glen Pitre, Belizaire the Cajun (Cote Blanche Productions, 1986); Robert J. Flaherty, Louisiana Story (Robert Flaherty Productions, 1948); Kasi Lemmons, Eve’s Bayou (Trimark Pictures, 1997). [↩︎]
- Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1999), N3,1. [↩︎]
- Walter Benjamin’s “angel of history” is a figure turning toward the past only to see a “catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed.” Then a wind comes, propelling the angel into the future, backwards. “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” in Illuminations, ed. Hannah Arendt (New York: Shocken Books, 2007), 257. [↩︎]
- Foucault termed his historical method “genealogy.” He writes that genealogy “must record the singularity of events outside of any monotonous finality; it must seek them in the most unpromising places, in what we tend to feel is without history […]; it must be sensitive to their recurrence, not in order to trace the gradual curve of their evolution but to isolate the different scenes where they engaged in different roles. Finally, genealogy must define even those instances when they are absent, the moment when they remained unrealized.” “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” in Aesthetics, Method, and Epistemology (New York: The New Press, 1977), 369. The aptness of using Foucault’s genealogy to study genealogy (the study of family lineage) is not lost here. [↩︎]
- In an interview with filmmaker Enrico Fulchignoni, Rouch says, “I have a tendency, when I’m filming, to consider the landscape… as precisely the work of God, and the presence of my camera as an intolerable disorder. It’s this intolerable disorder that becomes a creative object.” Rouch, Ciné-Ethnography, 154. [↩︎]
- Models for scholarly works consisting of sometimes short, mixed-genre texts instead of long chapters include Roland Barthes, The Pleasure of the Text (New York: Hill and Wang, 1975); Benjamin, The Arcades Project; Ernst Bloch, Heritage of Our Times (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991); The Principle of Hope (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1986); Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Stephen F. Rendall (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984); Édouard Glissant, Poetics of Relation, trans. Betsy Wing (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1990); Stewart, “Atmospheric Attunments.”; Ordinary Affects (Durham: Duke University Press, 2007); A Space on the Side of the Road: Cultural Poetics in an “Other” America (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996); Michael Taussig, I Swear I Saw This: Drawings in Fieldwork Notebooks, Namely My Own (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011). [↩︎]
- For examples of the types of filmmaking I plan to do, see Diana Allan, Still Life (Watertown: Documentary Educational Resources, 2010); Castaing-Taylor and Paravel, Leviathan; David MacDougall, To Live with Herds (Berkeley: University of California Extension Media Center, 1973); Véréna Paravel and J. P. Sniadecki, Foreign Parts (New York: Kino Lorber, 2011); Jean Rouch, Les maîtres fous (Brooklyn: Icarus Films, 2010); Moi, un noir (Brooklyn: Icarus Films, 2010); Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin, Chronique d’un été (New York: Criterion Collection, 2013); J. P. Sniadecki, Demolition, (Watertown: Documentary Educational Resources, 2008); Songhua (Watertown: Documentary Educational Resources, 2007); Stephanie A. Spray, Monsoon-Reflections (Watertown: Documentary Educational Resources, 2010). [↩︎]
- For the digital copy, I will embed videos into the running text using a multimedia pdf so that a reader might seamlessly experience the dissertation in both textual and filmic components. For the hard copy, I will include stills and links where the filmic components should be, directing readers to an online, streaming version. [↩︎]