In Need of a Jazz Funeral: Hyper-Mediated Mourning of the Gulf Coast

Curator's Note

The adjacent image appeared first as ads in the Gambit, New Orleans' alternative weekly newspaper. Mignon Faget, a local, well-known jewelry designer, adapted her collection of solid silver Gulf Coast animals in the spirit of mourning jewelry, by placing a black ribbon behind each pin. The pin could then be used to raise awareness about the issues or  to signify the collective mourning taking place throughout the Gulf Coast. The ad was striking, placing the proper word on the responses and emotions of the people of New Orleans. I have seen people break into tears in conversations about the spill. The Gambit  published a sidebar of their unscientific survey which showed  that 59% of New Orleanians have "experienced significant depression from hearing about the Gulf oil disaster," with another 16% claiming, "It's coming” (July 6, 2010, p. 9).

It seemed that this sort of outward display of mourning through wearing a pin, of some sort of action of mourning, may be necessary here in lovely New Orleans. We have traditions of collective, public actions, much more so than other locales in the United States. Mardi Gras and jazz funerals are obvious examples, but so are events such as the continual parades, festivals, and second lines that occur throughout the year.  

The experience of this mourning is simultaneously personal, collective, and hyper-mediated. Individuals and organizations often find out more about the event from the news media than from those involved in the spill's economic, environmental, personal, or recovery wake. News coverage of the spill is extraordinarily important, including sustained coverage when new events come along. News outlets such as CNN have been successful in this regards. I am not criticizing the news media's coverage, but simply drawing attention to the ways that the hyper-mediation of this disaster (as well as other disasters) influences the collective mourning of those affected by the event.  There is no space to hide, become reclusive, or recover. This mourning is public, occurring as a group in and through the public culture of the media and the city.

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