Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geography and Anthropology

Document Type



Drawing on the legacy of architectural studies in cultural geography, this dissertation integrates traditional approaches to built environments that take seriously the physical form and presence of buildings with more recent scholarship that employs performance and practice theory to address the embodied, contingent, and ongoing practices through which buildings are endowed with meaning by those who use, inhabit, or identify with them. Using ethnographic and architectural-documentation methods to carefully apprehend the interrelationships between architecture and embodied practices, this dissertation presents a set of ethno-material case studies – four buildings and their community of users that were central to New Orleans’ recovery after Hurricane Katrina. The case studies reveal how architecture and embodied practices worked as systems of meaning that intersected in ongoing ways to produce or re-produce each building’s significance in post-disaster New Orleans. This dissertation also considers the often overlooked role of the city’s built environments in structuring and sustaining cultural practices and traditions after Hurricane Katrina. Because government-backed preservation processes were a principal arena where issues of architectural significance and cultural vitality were debated and addressed in post-Katrina New Orleans, this dissertation also considers the two major preservation controversies in the city following the storm and offers insight into the disconnect between various notions and understandings of architectural significance during these preservation debates, namely the material-centered emphasis of preservationists versus residents’ embodied, embedded, and often practical notions of place significance. While this dissertation offers insight on urban systems and policy in crisis, historic preservation policy and practice in post-Katrina New Orleans specifically, the research speaks to issues of redevelopment, recovery, and preservation in other American cities. Most fundamentally, the project offers cultural geographers, preservationists, and other place documentarians refined conceptual and methodological frameworks to more adequately assess architectural significance and promote buildings that are important to the communities they work with.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

DeLyser, Dydia