POSTED Fri. Jun 7, 2013
Does Progress Destroy Culture?
Adam Karlin
Written by ADAM KARLIN

That question was the topic of a panel discussion at Tulane’s Hillel center last night. This is an edgy subject in New Orleans these days, and there was a packed house in attendance. So a big thank you to WWOZ for filming the event and providing a webcast here.

The panelists were Tulane geographer Richard Campanella, journalist Katy Reckdahl, musicians Ellis Marsalis and Shamarr Allen, and hotelier Michael Valentino (full disclosure: Valentino is a developer of this website).

As far as the question, Does Progress Destroy Culture – well, no one definitive conclusion was reached, but there did seem to be consensus on some major points:

  • New Orleans has a dynamic, rather than static culture, and whatever we call ‘real’ or ‘authentic’ New Orleans has actually changed over the years as new waves of transplants have settled in the city.
  • At the same time, there is a native culture here very much worth defending, both on its own merits and as a tourism attraction that is an economic engine for the city.
  • That culture comes from many levels, but derives in a large part from some of the poorest, most disadvantaged parts of the city, and preserving culture means doing right by that population.

How to do right will be a question for another forum, although some ideas were touched upon last night. Enjoy. And if you’ve been following the Marigny-Mimi’s sound feud, pay attention to professor Campanella’s talk, where he explains the history of Bourbon and Frenchman streets, and the fact that noise complaints by new arrivals is a phenomenon as old as New Orleans itself.

Image of Central City by Adam Karlin


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