Date of Award

12-2009

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Anthropology

First Advisor

Sutton, David

Abstract

This paper explores the sociocultural significance of the post-Katrina reopening of Camellia Grill in New Orleans. Many local New Orleanians and tourists, disappointed by the closure of this landmark counter-style diner, waged a "love notes" campaign for its return by posting hundreds of affectionate begging notes on its front door and side windows. Since Camellia Grill's reopening in 2007, patrons from all walks of life have packed into it for the familiar foods and entertaining waiters. Even some of those who never liked the diner welcomed its return. This paper examines the historically contingent and culturally specific processes that uphold the Camellia Grill, among other historic eateries in New Orleans, as a symbolic point of reference for restoring and rebuilding cultural identities of the city and its people. The paper also analyzes different perceptions of the Camellia Grill and its reopening, which reveals the heterogeneousness of New Orleanian constructions of identity and tradition, resulting from their divergent ethnic and class status and place-making practices. Investigating the Camellia Grill in a post-disaster recovery scenario, the paper not only studies the diner as a nexus of identity, nostalgia, and power, but also attends to specific cultural forms and daily practices which shape and reshape people's diverse ways of thinking and being in the place and culture to which they call home.

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