“Voices Wake Us” — Discussing Katrina – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

“Voices Wake Us” — Discussing Katrina

Discussing Disaster Politics, Democracy and Hurricane Katrina

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. has been faced with picking up the pieces of a devastated New Orleans and the resulting socio-political situation. To help rebuild these physical and ideological structures, the students and faculty of Politics of Disaster, taught by Cedric Johnson, associate professor of political science, and Senior Seminar: Press Coverage of Katrina, taught by Linda Robertson, professor of media and society, are hosting a two-week symposium, titled “Voices Wake Us And We Drown: HWS Discusses Disaster Politics, Democracy and Hurricane Katrina.” The event will be held throughout the first two weeks of April. (See below for the complete symposium schedule.)

“The purpose is to alert participants to the reality that post-Katrina New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Region constitute a crisis requiring national attention,” Robertson explained. “In response, the symposium combines my interest in the media coverage of Katrina with Professor Johnson’s interest in the politics associated with the disaster and its aftermath.”

Calling upon a vast range of perspectives, “Voices Wake Us And We Drown” will include faculty panel presentations, film screenings, discussions led by students and/or faculty as well as lectures by some of the nation’s leading experts on these interwoven topics.

“To explore these complex causes, we knew that we would need a wide array of perspectives from a variety of scholarly disciplines that explored the media coverage of the disaster in unique ways,” Robertson said. “There are many factors that contributed to the disastrous consequences of Hurricane Katrina: the oversights of levee engineers, the complete failure of government officials and the problematically selective news media.”

During the symposium, Johnson will join Robertson and Paul Passavant, associate professor of political science, on panel regarding “The Neoliberal Deluge.” Johnson edited a recent collection of essays on the subject.

On Tuesday, April 7 at 7:30 p.m., there will be a screening and discussion of “Belly of the Basin” led by one of its directors, Roxana Walker-Canton, indie filmmaker and assistant professor of new media at Fairfield University

To bring together this multitude of perspectives and events, media and society students from both Robertson’s and Johnson’s courses will introduce and lead discussions of screenings of Hurricane Katrina news coverage.

In addition, there will also be a screening of a portion of the documentary that Robertson and two of her students – Allison Dean ’09 and Jonathan Bachrach ’09 – filmed while in New Orleans during Spring Break.

“The documentary is based on key points that the seniors in our seminar felt should be followed up on,” explained Robertson. “While the documentary is still in post-production with a full screening set for a future date, we will be screening the portion of it that features HWS students helping to rebuild New Orleans over Spring Break.”

Robertson notes that 24 students from the Colleges spent Spring Break volunteering in New Orleans, including students in both courses mentioned above as well as many other students from the Colleges.

In Robertson’s view, “With an event so cataclysmic, it’s vital that we all learn about it by studying and experiencing it.”

For media and society students, she adds that, “When evaluating Katrina news coverage from the perspective of media and society, it’s important for students to be able to follow up on stories that suddenly fell out of public view; they need to be able to ask ‘Why don’t those stories have news value anymore?'”

The complete symposium schedule is as follows:

Voices Wake Us And We Drown:

Disaster Politics, Democracy and Hurricane Katrina


Thursday, April 2:

7:30 p.m.  When the Levees Broke (Act Four) screening

Presented by Jonathan Bachrach ’09, Shannen Fish ’09 and John Heavey ’09.

Albright Auditorium


Monday, April 6

7:30 p.m.  Frontline: The Storm screening

presented by Kelsey Landahl ’09, Bradley Hester ’09 and Geoff Exum ’09.

Albright Auditorium


Tuesday, April 7

7:30  p.m.  Belly of the Basin screening

Discussion with Roxana Walker-Canton, Indie filmmaker and Assistant Professor of New Media at Fairfield University

Albright Auditorium


Wednesday, April 8

7-9 p.m.  Teach-in: Gulf Coast Civic Works Project Bill

Discussion with Jacquelyn Sands ’09, Amanda Ward ’11 and Nate Campbell ’11

Stern 303


Thursday, April 9

4:30- 6 p.m.  After the Deluge: HWS and New Orleans

Student Forum

Gary Anthony ’10, Shanelle France ’11, Tim Holinger ’11, Dale Watkins ’09, Intercultural Affairs Program Coordinator Aisha Rivers ’07, Jade Vasquez ’12 and Shena Vagliano-Fielding ’10

Moderated by Cedric Johnson, Associate Professor of Political Science

Geneva Room


7:30 p.m.  Trouble the Water screening

Discussion with Linda Robertson, Professor of Media and Society

Albright Auditorium


9 p.m.  Reception at Irene’s Coffee House


Friday, April 10

4:30- 6 p.m.  The Neoliberal Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, Domestic Politics and Global Inequalities

Faculty panel

Geneva Room, Warren Hunting Smith Library

“How Shall We Remember New Orleans: A Comparison of the News Coverage of Post Katrina New Orleans and the 2008 Midwest Floods” by Linda Robertson, Professor of Media and Society

“The Neoliberal State and Container Space:  The Imprisoning Potential of Consumption in New Orleans” by Paul Passavant, Associate Professor of Political Science

“‘The City that Care Forgot’: New Orleans, the New International Division of Labor and Neoliberal Priorities” by Cedric Johnson, Associate Professor of Political Science

Discussant, Stacey Philbrick-Yadav, Assistant Professor of Political Science


7:30 – 9 p.m.  Challenging the Disaster Capitalism Agenda: Lessions form the Battle for Public Housing

Keynote Lecture by Jay Arena, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the College of Staten Island

Geneva Room, Warren Hunting Smith Library


Saturday, April 11

10-11:25 a.m.  Lessons from New Orleans: Evacuation, Shelter and Communication

Student Panel

Sanford Room, Warren Hunting Smith Library


“Where Do We Go: Evacuation Planning” by Alex Graf ’09

“When Technology Fails: The Breakdown of Communication in New Orleans During Hurricane Katrina” by Maya Bogdanow ’11

“A Study in Preventable Disasters” by Martin Michaels ’11

“Understanding Rebuilding in Terms of Long Term Housing” by Leah Dittrick ’09

Discussant, Brenda Maiale, Assistant professor of anthropology


11:35a.m.-12:55 p.m.  Covering New Orleans: Scripted and Unscripted News

Sanford Room, Warren Hunting Smith Library

“‘This Can’t Be America’: Idealized America as Rhetorical Frame. ” by Mark Owen’09

“The Failure of Journalists to Follow Up After the Deluge.” by Sara Borup ’09

“Emotional Aspects of Journalism and the Culture of Dependency” by Alexandra Haack ’09

“Labelling the Culture of Dependency” by Catherine Staats ’09

Discussant, Neeta Bhasin, Assistant Professor of Writing and Rhetoric


1-1:45 p.m.  Light Lunch

Library Atrium,  Sponsored by the Office of Intercultural Affairs


1:50-3:15 p.m.  Lessons from New Orleans: Health Care and Concentrated Risks

Student Panel

Sanford Room, Warren Hunting Smith Library

“Seniors in the Storm: A Look into Disaster Preparation for the Elderly” by Sarah Smith ’12

“The Effects of Concentrated Poverty: How New Orleans Poorest Residents Were Impacted by Hurricane Katrina” by Elijah Gleason ’12

Discussant, Brian Cooper, Assistant Professor of Economics


3:25-4:50 p.m.  Covering New Orleans: The Challenge to Documentary

Student Panel,  Sanford Room, Warren Hunting Smith Library

“Ethics of the Documentary in Axe in the Attic.” by Georgiana Morgan ’09

“Facts, Intertextuality and the Audience for Katrina Documentaries.” by            Allison Dean ’09

“Brian Williams, The First Five Days: Documenting the Anchor’s Responsibility” by  Martica Wakeman ’09

“Axe in the Attic: the Value and the Challenge of the Personal Narrative. ” by Richard Doyle ’09

The photo above features the Student Forum that was held on Thursday in the Geneva Room titled “After the Deluge: HWS and New Orleans.”