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Crédits : @ Adèle Cribelier 2021 / Penninghen

Varieties of experience in navigating disaster:

Notes for a fluvial way of knowing


The qualitative, undifferentiated time of disaster affords propitious moments, requiring quick action by those in its midst. During Katrina, the rapidly transforming watery world of New Orleans created new resistances and lines of flow. In the absence of government-organized disaster assistance during Katrina, some New Orleanians already long afflicted with chronic mental illnesses were left to navigate the flooded city on their own, as this essay captures from oral histories gathered and observations made over four years. For some long disabled by severe mental illness, surviving the disaster resembled their life pattern of circuitous movement, the survivors appearing caught up in a circular pattern of water, floating along with no external force to push against or momentum to be retrieved. Their particular mode evokes pre-steam engine era sailors stuck in the Doldrums, the Equatorial belt where atmospheric conditions deprive the sea of wind-force and momentum. Yet others deviated from the usual everyday scripts in which they were ensconced, be they those of patient-clinician routines or of stigmatizing encounters in public places. Rather than stagnating, these survivors moved along, improvising at every turn, divinely realized or sheer happenstance. They interacted with the disaster’s undercurrents, crafting temporary solutions through chance encounters and found resources. Such wayfarers place-mark a world wide open, even for those whose lives are usually confined to a circuit of institutions and marginal spaces that stymie agency and narrow relational possibilities. Mark Bradford’s Katrina-inspired art resonates with such varieties of experience, from exclusion to the possibility of community and rebirth, however momentary.

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Ce document sera publié en ligne en texte intégral en mai 2022.


A watery city: summer 2006
Flash forward: a waterlogged story
Wayfaring away from the doldrums: notes from August 2006
Like a river spilling over its bank: going off script
“When Desire comes back”: fall 2008
Mithra: Mark Bradford’s ark: winter 2008

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A watery city: summer 2006

Louisianans live in a watery place. You sense it entering New Orleans on the nearly two-kilometer bridge through the Bonnet-Carré Spillway, bald cypress-dotted wetlands on either side of you. On stormy days, the murky swamp seems so precariously close to the highway pavement that driving on the bridge’s rain-drenched lanes feels like gliding on the surface of water.

[see : Mithra, Mark Bradford, 2008, Installation view, Prospect 1, New Orleans.​app/​news-upload/​2019/​04/​mark-bradford-long-museum-1024x683.jpg Photo © Mark Bradford and Hauser & Wirth]

Downriver from the other side of the city, exotically named barrier islands off the Mississippi Delta have simply been swallowed up by the sea. Isle Dernière disappeared in an 1854 storm, Manila Village during Hurricane Betsy (1965). Today, Isle de Jean Charles, home to Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw indigenous people, has already lost most of its landmass to climate change.

New Orleanians ori...

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Référence électronique

Anne M. LOVELL, « Varieties of experience in navigating disaster: », Terrain [En ligne], 76 | mars 2022, mis en ligne le 30 mai 2022, consulté le 26 mai 2022. URL : ; DOI :

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INSERM, CERMES3, Université de Paris, CNRS

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