Nathan Jessee

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Temple U.

Grant number

Gr. 9234

Approve Date

April 8, 2016

Project Title

Jessee, Nathan Aaron, Temple U., Philadelphia, PA - To aid research on 'Inhabiting Disaster Media Worlds: Visual Media, Indigenous Activism, and Adaptation to Coastal Hazards in Louisiana,' supervised by Dr. Damien Stankiewicz

Preliminary abstract: This research examines recent efforts to increase the visibility of Louisiana’s coastal hazards and communities who reckon with them. After Hurricane Katrina and the 2010 BP Oil Disaster, journalists and filmmakers inundated southeast Louisiana hoping to capture a landscape ravaged by oil spills, hurricanes, coastal erosion, and among the highest rates of sea level rise on Earth. Despite a historical neglect of local indigenous communities, media-makers looked to bayou Indian tribes, like the Isle de Jean Charles band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw, to understand the impacts of these unprecedented catastrophes. My research investigates: 1) the widespread visualization of catastrophe in southeast Louisiana and how it has affected the Isle de Jean Charles and their efforts to adapt to coastal hazards, 2) the material, social, and cultural processes by which tribal experiences of disaster are reproduced and circulated through journalism, film, and community-driven initiatives; and 3) how diverse audiences engage with representations of the tribe, their land, and the environmental processes that affect them. Building on relationships cultivated while a research assistant at the Center of Hazards, Assessment, Response, and Technology in New Orleans, I will work alongside Isle de Jean Charles tribal leaders and their partners and conduct participant observation, ethnographic interviews, and media reception analyses with tribal members, filmmakers, journalists, hazard mitigation professionals, and audiences targeted by the tribe. This research will bring together insights from media anthropology and political ecology to analyze how visual media reflect, reproduce, and transform social relations that coalesce around environmental disasters.