Subject: The nexus of site and situation in a geographic disaster
Reading Level: Adult / High School
At its core, the study of history reveals choice. New Orleans provides an excellent exercise in the nature of historical inquiry. Why was any city placed in an environment so inhospitable to settlement and why was it so central to this nation’s growth? New Orleans was always more than its locality, a national city from the beginning. The history of our nation is one of perpetual conflict between seemingly incompatible options—freedom and order, opportunity and expectation, inclusion and elitism, openness and privilege. We want our citizens and country to grow unfettered but need to insert safeguards. It can be a perilous balance. Placing a city on banks of a river in low lying areas, such as New Orleans, is a literal illustration of this paradox. The shifting ground underneath New Orleans is both a fact and a metaphor for this city.