Forum – Clyde Woods’ “Development Drowned and Reborn: The Blues and Bourbon Restorations in Post-Katrina New Orleans”

At the 2018 annual meeting of the American Association of Geographers in New Orleans, Louisiana, Nik Heynen (University of Georgia) organised a kind of “author meets critics” session for Clyde Woods’ Development Drowned and Reborn: The Blues and Bourbon Restorations in Post-Katrina New Orleans. We say “kind of” because the book was completed and edited by Jordan Camp and Laura Pulido after Clyde’s death in 2011. Development Drowned and Reborn was published by the University of Georgia Press in its brilliant Geographies of Justice and Social Transformation series in 2017. As Nik put it:

Woods’ final book examines the history of New Orleans and explains in unflinching detail how and why Black lives were considered disposable.

Development Drowned and Reborn is a “Blues geography” of New Orleans, one that compels readers to return to the history of the Black freedom struggle there to reckon with its unfinished business. Reading contemporary policies of abandonment against the grain, Clyde Woods explores how Hurricane Katrina brought long-standing structures of domination into view. In so doing, Woods delineates the roots of neoliberalism in the region and a history of resistance.

Written in dialogue with social movements, this book offers tools for comprehending the racist dynamics of US culture and economy. Following his landmark study, Development Arrested: The Blues and Plantation Power in the Mississippi Delta (Verso, 2017 / 1998), Woods turns to organic intellectuals, Blues musicians, and poor and working people to instruct readers in this future-oriented history of struggle. Through this unique optic, Woods delineates a history, methodology, and epistemology to grasp alternative visions of development.

While Woods cannot be with us, we wanted to make sure his brilliant book got its due attention.

As well as Laura Pulido (University of Oregon) and Jordan Camp (Barnard College), the session brought together Treva Ellison (Dartmouth College), Anne Bonds (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), and Willie Wright (Florida State University) to reflect on and celebrate Clyde’s book and his remarkable contribution to critical scholarship and activism. Thanks to Willie, we can make available here edited transcripts of their presentations. And thanks to Nik and the good people at the University of Georgia Press, we can also make available Laura and Jordan’s invaluable Introduction to Development Drowned and Reborn, “The Dialectics of Bourbonism and the Blues”. Both the essays and Introduction can be downloaded below.

Laura Pulido (University of Oregon) and Jordan Camp (Barnard College)

Treva Ellison (Dartmouth College)

Anne Bonds (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)

Willie Wright (Florida State University)

“Introduction: The dialectics of Bourbonism and the Blues”. In C Woods (2017) Development Drowned and Reborn: The Blues and Bourbon Restorations in Post-Katrina New Orleans (eds J T Camp and L Pulido) (ppxxi- xxix). Athens: University of Georgia Press

For more on Clyde Woods’ life and work, see the essays by Mark Campbell, Sue Ruddick, João Costa Vargas, Bobby Wilson, Mark Anthony Neal, and Edward Soja presented by Katherine McKittrick (Queen’s University) here at in 2012.

And graduate students should consider applying for the “Clyde Woods Black Geographies Specialty Group Graduate Student Paper Award”, which Antipode is proud to be working on with the AAG’s Black Geographies Specialty Group (BGSG).