"Studying chambers of commerce, politicians, preservationists and their opponents, novelists, teachers, and the tourists themselves, Stanonis details the surprisingly complex efforts behind marketing New Orleans as a city with an exotic past. The places and events—the Vieux Carre, the French Quarter, Bourbon Street, Mardi Gras, jazz—may be familiar, but the controversies over how or whether they should be tourist attractions are consistently fascinating."
—Ted Ownby, University of Mississippi
Stanonis looks at the importance of urban development, historic preservation, taxation strategies, and convention marketing to New Orleans' makeover and chronicles the city's efforts to domesticate its jazz scene, "democratize" Mardi Gras, and stereotype local blacks into docile, servile roles. He also looks at depictions of the city in literature and film and gauges the impact on New Orleans of white middle-class America's growing prosperity, mobility, leisure time, and tolerance of women in public spaces once considered off-limits.
Visitors go to New Orleans with expectations rooted in the city's "past": to revel with Mardi Gras maskers, soak up the romance of the French Quarter, and indulge in rich cuisine and hot music. Such a past has a basis in history, says Stanonis, but it has been carefully excised from its gritty context and scrubbed clean for mass consumption.
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