My dissertation is an interdisciplinary ethnographic project that examines Black life in New Orleans, Louisiana by exploring the social consequences of the privatization of the city’s public school system. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation in 2005, the Louisiana State legislature fired 7,000 New Orleans educators and administrators. The state then ordered the conversion of all New Orleans public schools into privately managed charter schools. This dissertation uses life history interviews, participant observation, historical archival research, and spatial analysis to understand the intergenerational educational experiences of Black families living in the Gentilly and 7th Ward neighborhoods of New Orleans. I use these data to investigate the sociocultural effects of this neoliberal reconfiguration of public education.
The dissolution of neighborhood schools fractured important social and economic bonds, facilitating a blueprint of capitalist development that unmoored many Black families from neighborhoods where they had previously flourished. The dissertation extends anthropological understandings of race and neoliberalism by arguing that this privatization of public schools is one tactic of an anti-Black political-economic project that maintains its coherence through the dispossession and death of Black New Orleanians. Coupled with the negrophobic desire to rid the city of Black sociality is the negrophilic drive to ravenously consume Blackness and Black culture. Disaster tourists can imbibe scenes of the elimination of Black life on bus tours of the Lower 9th Ward, and catch a brass band in the French Quarter in order to consume Black music the same night. This dissertation argues that the “necropolitics” that accelerate the obliteration of Black people from New Orleans simultaneously drives the commodification of Black abjection in Post-Katrina New Orleans. This ethnography elucidates this sociocultural landscape, where the subjectivities that emerge from the historical memory of genocidal processes and past slave revolts stimulate Black New Orleanians’ resistance to state violence and educational inequality.