Radical Cities, Radical Narratives

  • Claire Cox (Speaker)

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in conference


A one-day interdisciplinary conference exploring the relationships between narrative and the contemporary city. The conference was hosted by the Department of English and the Centre for GeoHumanities at Royal Holloway, University of London and held at Senate House in London.

‘raw space’: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans and the poetics of disaster in Patricia Smith’s Blood Dazzler. The paper given at the conference spoke to its themes by examining the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the population of New Orleans, including the city’s most vulnerable inhabitants, through a reading of Patricia Smith’s 2008 collection Blood Dazzler. The paper viewed the collection through the framework of disaster theory and contextualised it by reference to research findings relating to the increased vulnerability of the African American inhabitants of New Orleans and the inequalities laid bare by the devastation of that event. The question of how far Katrina’s narrative was that of a ‘natural’ disaster was also traced to a distinctive set of geo-political vulnerabilities, including the environmental depletion of the Mississippi River Delta wetlands and the non-implementation of disaster preparedness plans from Louisiana’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). It was argued that Blood Dazzler, although in itself not an example of the poetry of witness, offers a unique and cumulative insight into the phenomenon of Hurricane Katrina from the storm’s birth on 23rd August 2005 to its aftermath, due to the specific poetics employed within the collection. Through the sequence of poems that constitute Blood Dazzler, Smith creates a distinctly intense, multi-layered narrative of a twenty-first century city in extremis.
Period31 Oct 2017
Event typeOther


  • poetics
  • disaster
  • Hurricane Katrina