Honorable Mention for the 2008 Robert Park Outstanding Book Award given by the ASA’s Community and Urban Sociology Section
Mardi Gras, jazz, voodoo, gumbo, Bourbon Street, the French Quarter—all evoke that place that is unlike any other: New Orleans. In Authentic New Orleans, Kevin Fox Gotham explains how New Orleans became a tourist town, a spectacular locale known as much for its excesses as for its quirky Southern charm.
Gotham begins in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina amid the whirlwind of speculation about the rebuilding of the city and the dread of outsiders wiping New Orleans clean of the grit that made it great. He continues with the origins of Carnival and the Mardi Gras celebration in the nineteenth century, showing how, through careful planning and promotion, the city constructed itself as a major tourist attraction. By examining various image-building campaigns and promotional strategies to disseminate a palatable image of New Orleans on a national scale Gotham ultimately establishes New Orleans as one of the originators of the mass tourism industry—which linked leisure to travel, promoted international expositions, and developed the concept of pleasure travel.
Gotham shows how New Orleans was able to become one of the most popular tourist attractions in the United States, especially through the transformation of Mardi Gras into a national, even international, event. All the while Gotham is concerned with showing the difference between tourism from above and tourism from below—that is, how New Orleans’ distinctiveness is both maximized, some might say exploited, to serve the global economy of tourism as well as how local groups and individuals use tourism to preserve and anchor longstanding communal traditions.
"A testament to the ways our social and legal system failed these women beginning in their childhoods and ended up causing them to fail their own children by being responsible for their deaths." ~PsycCRITIQUES
"Gotham shows how over time power relations, conflict, and 'tourism practices' have constructed and reshaped the authentic and explains the ways that reisdents through the years have defined authenticity. In doing so, he succeeds in demonstrating that racial inequalities, up which the Katrina disaster focused the nation's attention, helped toshape the images of New Orleans that promoters of the city projected to the rest of the nation and the world." ~John Gruesser,African American Review
"Gotham traces a fascinating yet critical history of racial exclusion, corporate tourism, and urban branding that students of all cities should read." ~Sharon Zukin,author of The Cultures of Cities
"In this remarkable book, Kevin Fox Gotham combines careful historical research, vivid ethnographic observation and sophisticated theoretical insight to produce an indispensable account of New Orleans tourist economy, from its earliest origins to the eve of Hurricane Katrina. A major achievement." ~Richard Douglas Lloyd,author of Neo-Bohemia: Art and Commerce in the Postindustrial City
"A seminal social and economic history of tourism and travel promotion in New Orleans, covering nearly two centuries from the early 1800s to the present. Authentic New Orleans should instantly become a standard case history in the sociology of tourism." ~John Hannigan,author of Fantasy City: Pleasure and Profit in the Postmodern Metropolis
"Authentic New Orleans is a convincing and productive work, which will be fruitful for further research on gentrification within urban studies." ~Thomas Doerfler,University of Bayreuth
"Authentic New Orleans provides a unique interpretation of the city, one that goes beyond its material elements (and devastation) and moves into the rich cultural roots of this special American landmark. I recommend it not only to students of cities, but to all those with a passion for and interest in American culture." ~Anthony Orum,author of City-Building in America
"Gothams bold critique of the heritage industry in New Orleans as exemplified by its famous French Quarter, Mardi Gras parades, and Creole cuisine exposes a city steeped in the ugly legacy of racial segregation and class exclusion. In rich narrative prose Gotham persuasively explains how commercial development and tourism's overarching footprint may have devastated the heart of the city even before Katrina washed it all away. This is an important book." ~David Grazian,author of Blue Chicago: The Search for Authenticity in Urban Blues Clubs
"“Gotham succeeds most clearly in offering a fresh interpretation of the 1884 World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition and in capturing the complexity of New Orleanians’ attitudes about “authenticity” at different moments in the city’s history. He also offers a compelling analysis enlivened with colorful details, especially for the mid- to late nineteenth century and the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. His work deserves historians’ attention for emphatically rejecting one-dimensional, theory-driven analyses that fail to capture the diversity of human agency." ~The Journal of Southern History
"Most of us probably do not think of sociologists as historians, but Kevin Fox Gotham, associate professor of sociology at Tulane University, shows us what is to be gained by bringing those two disciplines and their diverse methods of analyses together in productive counterpoint. Gotham’s use of a post-hurricane Katrina frame for considering tourism and New Orleans provides an accessible lead-in for most readers, but the historical depth of his study enables him to offer significant theoretical contributions to our ways of thinking about the relationships among “race,” tourism, and place, over time" ~American Journal of Sociology