Downtown Mardi Gras
New Carnival Practices in Post-Katrina New Orleans
A study of how the culture and customs of a city foster its rebirth
After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the surrounding region in 2005, the city debated whether to press on with Mardi Gras or cancel the parades. Ultimately, they decided to proceed. New Orleans’s recovery certainly has resulted from a complex of factors, but the city’s unique cultural life—perhaps its greatest capital—has been instrumental in bringing the city back from the brink of extinction.
Voicing a civic fervor, local writer Chris Rose spoke for the importance of Carnival when he argued to carry on with the celebration of Mardi Gras following Katrina: “We are still New Orleans. We are the soul of America. We embody the triumph of the human spirit. Hell, we ARE Mardi Gras. "
Since 2006, a number of new Mardi Gras practices have gained prominence. The new parade organizations or krewes, as they are called, interpret and revise the city’s Carnival traditions but bring innovative practices to Mardi Gras. The history of each parade reveals the convergence of race, class, age, and gender dynamics in these new Carnival organizations. Downtown Mardi Gras: New Carnival Practices in Post-Katrina New Orleans examines six unique, offbeat, Downtown celebrations. Using ethnography, folklore, cultural studies, and performance studies, the authors analyze new Mardi Gras’s connection to traditional Mardi Gras. The narrative of each krewe’s development is fascinating and unique, illustrating participants’ shared desire to contribute to New Orleans’s rich and vibrant culture.
"The book is convincing and enjoyably drives home the message that “anyone looking to certify the energy and evidence of recovery in New Orleans could today look at the city’s skyline, with its signs of remodeling and new construction [but that] better advice would be to cast an eye lower, to the Downtown streets of New Orleans and its parades of motley revelers, who in feathers, beads, horns, face, paint, and glitter, repair and reimagine the life of the city through the labor of play” (p. 26). "- Aurélie Godet, Université de Paris, Journal of Festive Studies
"In Downtown Mardi Gras, Leslie A. Wade, Robin Roberts, and Frank de Caro examine some of the interesting and important developments that have occurred on the New Orleans Mardi Gras scene since the flooding associated with Hurricane Katrina ruined much of the city in 2005. . . The underlying message throughout this collection of essays is that Mardi Gras does indeed matter, so much so, in fact, that new krewes emerged after Katrina to express the changing nature of the community."- Barry Jean Ancelet, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Emeritus, Journal of American Folklore 135(535):98–121