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Touring “Cancer Alley,” Louisiana: Performances of Community and Memory for Environmental Justice

Touring “Cancer Alley,” Louisiana: Performances of Community and Memory for Environmental Justice The region between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Louisiana, is known to some as “Cancer Alley.” Environmental justice activists provide “toxic tours” through this area to address how racism and classism have created an environmentally unjust climate. Drawing on participant-observation to critically represent one such tour, the author illustrates how toxic tours may function rhetorically as cultural performances to help build communities of resistance through acts of politicizing memory. Examining how chartered buses, tour guides, and “stops” rearticulate what and who should be preserved, the author argues that the tour both enacts what Dean MacCannell calls the tourist practice of “sight sacralization” and contests conventional tourist representations. This essay concludes by underscoring the politically viable relations that exist among tourism, performance, and culture. The moment I stepped off the bus (I have allergies) I was hit with a migraine headache and shortness of breath and in real distress. I just started crying for the people that call the community home and must be breathing that toxic air all the time.... I think the tours are a great idea, even though it made me sick to go on the tour. If the people in power or decision makers would go on a toxic tour I believe they would smell the light as well as see it. (Catherine Murray, personal correspondence subsequent to a toxic tour in “Cancer Alley,” Louisiana) http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Text and Performance Quarterly Taylor & Francis

Touring “Cancer Alley,” Louisiana: Performances of Community and Memory for Environmental Justice

Text and Performance Quarterly , Volume 23 (3): 27 – Jul 1, 2003
27 pages

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Publisher
Taylor & Francis
Copyright
Copyright Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN
1479-5760
eISSN
1046-2937
DOI
10.1080/10462930310001635295
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

The region between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Louisiana, is known to some as “Cancer Alley.” Environmental justice activists provide “toxic tours” through this area to address how racism and classism have created an environmentally unjust climate. Drawing on participant-observation to critically represent one such tour, the author illustrates how toxic tours may function rhetorically as cultural performances to help build communities of resistance through acts of politicizing memory. Examining how chartered buses, tour guides, and “stops” rearticulate what and who should be preserved, the author argues that the tour both enacts what Dean MacCannell calls the tourist practice of “sight sacralization” and contests conventional tourist representations. This essay concludes by underscoring the politically viable relations that exist among tourism, performance, and culture. The moment I stepped off the bus (I have allergies) I was hit with a migraine headache and shortness of breath and in real distress. I just started crying for the people that call the community home and must be breathing that toxic air all the time.... I think the tours are a great idea, even though it made me sick to go on the tour. If the people in power or decision makers would go on a toxic tour I believe they would smell the light as well as see it. (Catherine Murray, personal correspondence subsequent to a toxic tour in “Cancer Alley,” Louisiana)

Journal

Text and Performance QuarterlyTaylor & Francis

Published: Jul 1, 2003

Keywords: toxic tour,; environmental justice,; community,; memory,; sight sacralization

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