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Tourism and Occultism in New Orleans's Jackson Square: Contentious and Cooperative Publics

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Though tourism performances usually promote dominant representations of iconic places like New Orleans's Jackson Square, I argue that some performances also disrupt those representations as well as support challenges to particular normative ideals. Using ideas of performativity and threshold space, I examine just one facet, tourism and Tarot card and palm reading, in Jackson Square's dynamic landscape. I discuss how tourism performances materialized and intertwined with a variety of occultist practices. Both historical and more contemporary interactions reveal racialized discourses and practices which contribute to deep socio-cultural divisions between groups in New Orleans and Jackson Square. On the one hand, these divisions expose predominant ideas of a homogenized, white middle class as ‘the public’. On the other hand, as I show, these divisions reveal in the public sphere the functioning of a disparate, though contentious, public. In this respect, ‘the public’ is not necessarily in the moment, in place, or embodied. Yet, as I also argue, more recent day-to-day (occultist) tourist performances situated in Jackson Square may concurrently render a less discordant and more cooperative heterogeneous public. I conclude by commenting on some possible socio-cultural and political-economic implications of a cooperative heterogeneous public.

Keywords: Jackson Square; New Orleans; Tourism; occultism; performance; publics; racialization; the public; threshold space

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Geography,Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, USA

Publication date: 2012-02-01

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