Last semester I finished my undergraduate degree at the University of Houston. I took a class on the way the Hurricane Katrina community in Houston is developing an oral history of the events that took place. One thing that I noticed is that a given community will allow for things to become part of that oral history and communal memory that make sense to the community, but may not have actually happened. An example of this in the context of Katrina is that there is widespread belief within the community that the gov't (at some level) intentionally blew holes in the levies. This is being included as part of that community's developing history because it makes sense to the Katrina survivors-it resonates with their intuition of how the world works-in the absence of any real physical evidence proving that it happened.Here is communal memory in operation, taking shards from the past and using them to make sense of the present experience. If Katrina victims are doing this today, what might the early Christians have done following Jesus' crucifixion or the fall of the Temple?
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Katrina and Communal Memory
I received an anonymous tip from one of my readers who tracked down a story about an earlier event in 1927 in which a levy was blown up to keep the flood waters from inundating certain parts of New Orleans. Given the memory of this event, it is quite reasonable that the Katrina memory has been recast in the terms that Brian Kumnow noted in some of the Katrina interviews that his professor at the University of Houston have conducted. He wrote to me about this earlier: