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Policing Race and Space in the New Orleans Tourism Economy

Authors: Lydia Pelot-Hobbs*, New York University
Topics: Urban Geography
Keywords: racial capitalism, tourism, gentrification, race, New Orleans, policing
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Struggles over tourism gentrification have taken center stage in New Orleans. While the city’s turn to tourism as a racialized neoliberal economic development strategy began in the 1970s, the post-Katrina period has witnessed city officials’ aggressive promotion of tourism on an unmatched scale. In 2018 a record-setting 18.5 million tourists visited the Crescent City, while for the third year in a row the city’s population of residents declined due to a lack of affordable housing and well-paying work. In this paper, I argue that at the heart of this tourism boom has been the racial capitalist revalorization of the French Quarter through the innovation of new urban carceral infrastructures that displace the very Black cultures the city sells its tourism economy on. Pivotal to this project has been the formation of the French Quarter Management District (FQMD) – a public-private political subdivision of the state of Louisiana authority founded in 2007 – who have established new policing and surveillance initiatives in the name of securing the French Quarter from “lawlessness.” The FQMD’s intensified racialized and gendered policing practices while framed as political projects invested in public safety for tourists and residents alike, in actuality serve to advance a new round of socio-spatial enclosures set on erasing the few remaining spaces for Black New Orleanians from the French Quarter’s landscape – reminding us how tourism urban governance regimes under neoliberal racial capitalism are fundamentally political projects of racial displacement.

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