Imag(e)ining Place in Post-disaster Recovery: Asserting rights to place, narrative and identity

Authors: Joern Langhorst*, University of Colorado Denver, College of Architecture and Planning
Topics: Cultural Geography, Communication, Qualitative Methods
Keywords: Visual Methods, Construction of Place, Participation, Counter-mapping, Counter-narratives
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 2:35 PM / 4:15 PM
Room: Senate Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper, based on the author’s 5-year involvement in the recovery of the Lower 9th Ward, New Orleans, after Hurricane Katrina, provides critical perspectives on alternative visual languages’ potential in conceptualizing and realizing of more complex adaptive human-environment interactions and in asserting the interests of marginalized and vulnerable communities. Traditional visualization techniques in design and planning disciplines have emphasized the (rational) manipulation of space and the inscription of order and meaning and excluded visceral, unique and experiential qualities that are a fundamental precondition for the formation of place. Such emphasis on the rational, measurable reduces place to tabula rasa, destroying its inherent memories, meanings and identities, and disempowering the people it is inhabited by. The paper presents examples of alternative techniques and media for visualization and representation in the context of the recovery of post-disaster and post-industrial landscapes and communities. These play significant roles in counter-mapping, and attempt to facilitate the inclusion of multiple interpretations and voices in the discursive processes of intentional place change. They afford previously marginalized people and communities alternative instruments to exercise their "right to narrative" (Bhabha 2003), thus asserting their identity and empowering them to play a more significant role in the spatial design and planning processes that that habitually exclude and victimize them. As such, they serve as an alternative (primarily visual) language that provides a parallel "read" on extant and hypothetical/future places – a language that is frequently incompatible with traditional graphic media employed in spatial design and planning processes by hegemonial interests.

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