University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee

Contact Us:

Cheryl Ajirotutu
Associate Professor
Dept. of Anthropology &
Associate Director
Cultures & Communities Prog.
Phone: 414-229-2298/
Fax: 414-229-5848
Please place "New Orleans" in Subject Box

Monique Hassman
Project Assistant
Phone: 414-229-1159

Presentations & Research


Expanding the Influence of Applied Social Science
The Society for Applied Anthropology
71st Annual Meeting
Grand Hyatt Seattle
March 29-April 2, 2011

Monique Hassman, Shannon Dosemagen

“I Can Get through Anything with Satsumas”: Agriculture, Landscape, and Productions of Knowledge"


Women's Studies Student Awards Ceremony
UWM Hefter Center

March 31, 2011

Professor Cheryl Ajirotutu and Student Carlie Lusk, at the March 2011 Women's Studies Student Awards Ceremony

Associate Professor Cheryl Ajirotutu with undergraduate student Carlie Lusk. Carlie won second place in the annual UWM Student Research Paper and Project Contest for her research paper: "Determined to Return: Women Who Have Returned to New Orleans Post Katrina, and What They Are Doing for Their Communities."



Fall 2010 Architecture: Learning from New Orleans



American Anthropological Association
109th Annual Conference
New Orleans, LA
November 14
-21, 2010

Harry Vanodenallen:





Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life National Conference
Convergence Zones: Public Cultures and Translocal Practices
Thursday, September 23, through Saturday, September 25, 2010
Seattle, Washington


The Long Haul: Sharing (and Inventing) the Lessons of Sustained Engagement

Drawing from place-based scholarship about community action, this roundtable brings together scholars and organizers from very different institutions, whose questions and experiences crafting translocal relationships and scholarship of engagement offer practices for sustaining place-based commitment in unique ways.  This session invites participants to creatively brainstorm ways to develop and sustain high-impact public engagement at their universities and in their communities.  The session examines some of the tactical details, the maneuvers and institutional mechanisms (whether research, pedagogical, and/or community-driven) that people at different kinds of educational institutions are developing, and with specific focus on the long-term sustainability of interstate and international relationships.  Beginning with a round-table discussion format that allows participants to speak to their particular locations, the session will then move on to break-out groups, where session participants will collaborate to envision answers to the following core questions:

  • What’s unique about our institution—the material conditions of our place of work—that will shape our efforts, going forward?
  • What are the broad-based institutional, departmental, and organizational contexts for collaborative opportunities?
  • Which kinds of public collaborations find purchase with educational institutions, and why?
  • What are the effects on curriculum and research?
  • What kinds of funding mechanisms sustain long-term collaborations?
  • How do we identify and overcome perceived barriers to the scholarship of engagement?
  • How do we create visibility for public engagement on and off campus?
Through discussion, brainstorming, and sharing, participants will leave the session armed with ideas, actions, and/or plans to introduce at their own campus. Workshop participants will receive electronically summaries of the workshop proceedings and an invitation to continue the conversation via a wiki site within two weeks of the conference. This roundtable and workshop is co-chaired by Lara D. Nielsen, Assistant Professor, Theater and Performance Studies, and Molly Olsen, Associate Professor, Hispanic Studies, both of Macalester College.

Participants are Cheryl Ajirotutu, Associate Professor, Anthropology, University of Wisconsin– Milwaukee; Jane Barnette, Assistant Professor of Theater and Performance Studies, Kennesaw State University; Linda Stewart, Assistant Professor of English, Kennesaw State University; and Stephen Tremaine, Director, Early College New Orleans, Bard College.

Poster Session: Monique Hassman,Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Toward a Movement of Mutuality: Reflective Research in Rebuilding & Resiliency in New Orleans


Society for Applied Anthropology 70th Annual Meeting: Vulnerabilities and Exclusion in Globalization

Mérida, México
March 24-27, 2010

AJIROTUTU, Cheryl (U Wisc-Milwaukee) Roots Run Deep Here: Contesting Locality in New Orleans–Post Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Parts I-III.

When Hurricane Katrina struck the city of New Orleans in August 2005, the world witnessed a national disaster. Flood waters seemingly washed away a city, a culture, a national and international icon. Overnight residents and victims of the flood were called refugees and cast into a diasporic network of differing localities. Presentations in this session interrogate the interplay of locality and the politics surrounding the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina against the existing and emerging cultural constellations of globalization. Particular attention is given to New Orleans residents from the Lower 9th Ward.


AJIROTUTU, Cheryl (U Wisc-Milwaukee) Voices from Inside the Storm: An Ethnographic Inquiry into the Ethnoscapes of Place and Placelessness in New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward.

Over the past three years, students and I have recorded the oral narratives of residents from the Lower 9th Ward.  Their memories of a community of care, a place called home, and sense of belonging are embedded in vibrant kinship networks, cultural traditions, and social norms that distinguish the city of New Orleans as a cultural icon. This presentation discusses residents’ evacuation as a lived experience of translocality, where shared representations of ethnoscapes generated a sense of place and placelessness. These factors influenced their need to return, rebuild, and transform their New Orleans community.


DOSEMAGEN, Shannon and HASSMAN, Monique (U Wisc-Milwaukee) ‘The Worst Thing after Katrina was the Silence’: Reclaiming Communitythrough the Language of Public Memory.

This paper looks at how the use of ‘Katrinaisms,’ linguistic terms created or appropriated by Hurricane Katrina survivors, has helped to generate and reinforce public memory and local knowledge in the post-Katrina, New Orleans landscape.  In this paper we look at how public recollection is generated around categories of remembrance and the way that political identities are created in survivors. The creation of the new ‘survivor’ identity helps to construct a community that critically remembers tragedy and abandonment, but also is working to re-create a community, once displaced, that is based on hope and cultural resurgence.


BRITZ, Johannes (UW-Milwaukee) To Know Is to Survive: A Critical Reflection on the Role of Information in Disaster Management.

Technology provided the world with a view of the disaster in New Orleans resulting from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  Representations of the victims and racial designations of behaviors left us wondering.  Was this America?  This presentation will focus on the relationship between information and disaster management - in particular on the role that information can play in the utilization of available resources.  Using a cultural lens, I investigate the social dynamics of power, place and race.  It will take as a case study a similar project that was launched in Burma when it was hit by a cyclone last year.


JACKSON, Joyce Marie (Louisiana State U) Music, Dance and Feathers in the Big Nine: Empowering Place and Voice in the New New Orleans.

The cultural assets of New Orleans are rooted firmly in the communities and are essential elements of the city’s social capital. Vernacular practices were supported by systems that, even before Katrina, were fragile and vulnerable in some respects, yet resilient and invincible in others.  The place-based traditions provide rooted gathering places and cultural and spiritual touchstones that are sources of community revitalization. By the use of critical ethnographies in the Lower Ninth Ward community, this study examines how cultural sustainability is critical to the work of rebuilding and how, in significant ways, place and voice are being empowered.


BROOM, Pamela A. (New Orleans Food & Farm Network) Reconstructing Home in a Post-disaster City.

New Orleans is a city whose landscape is blanketed with a pattern of neighborhoods that are as distinct as the people and cultural expressions that define them.  The aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita violently rent the fabric of the City, dislodging multitudes from all that was self defining and communally familiar.  This presentation will offer local examples that mirror global phenomenon related to the effects of forced displacement on the survival of the community dynamic, illustrating methods employed by hurricane displaced community members to return, reclaim, and reconstruct home, spirit, and place in the Greater New Orleans area.


SALOY, Mona Lisa (Dillard U) Kids’ Culture Pre versus Post Katrina.

Prior to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, many might accuse New Orleans residents of being parochial, with many families in older sections living mere feet or blocks from other relatives, and where neighbors remained in neighborhoods for half a century or more. The result of such stability was a breeding ground for the development of a unique culture of kids, supervised by loving family and neighbors, extended family. That culture produced sidewalk songs, jump rope rhymes, and clap-hand games, which reflect not just rhythm and rhyme but comments on society, gender, and identity. What happened to that kids’ culture in Post-Katrina New Orleans?


VAN OUDENALLEN, Harry (U Wisc-Milwaukee) Why the Lower 9th Ward is Empty.

At the time of the 4th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of New Orleans, 58 students and faculty from 4 architecture schools (University of Wisconsin, University of Puerto Rico, the University of Houston, and Georgia Tech) performed a rapid urban assessment of the work yet to be completed in the Lower 9th Ward. The importance of New Orleans and its contribution to the cultural history of the United States are unquestionable.  The recovery efforts of Brad Pitt and planners, church organizations, and the dispossessed are not enough, by themselves, to rebuild.  This paper will focus on the release of human energy and the obstacles that prevent this.


POTTER, Amy E. (Louisiana State U) Sustainable Communities: Rebuilding the Lower Nine After Hurricane Katrina.

In December of 2007, actor Brad Pitt made national headlines announcing his plan to build150 green homes in the Katrina devastated area of the Lower Ninth Ward through his philanthropic project called Make It Right 9. This study seeks to understand, through ethnographic methods, how one neighborhood’s complex definition of community includes the built environment and how these philanthropic projects ultimately contribute to, or work against, the community rebuilding process. I conclude this paper with speculations on the future sustainability of this neighborhood in light of these “Green” philanthropic projects.


VOLZ DANIELS, Wendy (UW-Milwaukee, Helen Bader School of Social Welfare) Rebuilding Community.

The aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita left more than homes washed away by the water. It changed the meaning of what it means to be from New Orleans. Labeled refugees, racialized reporting adversely challenged the identity and representation of the people of New Orleans. This presentation discusses the power of place, of home in particular, as the reason to return, rebuild, and transform community. Discussion will focus on the use of oral history narratives to document the commitment of Lower 9th Ward residents - disproportionately affected by this disaster - to full recovery, despite multiple and systemic barriers.


RODRIGUEZ, Francisco Javier (U Puerto Rico) Rebuilding Space and Place in the Lower 9th Ward Community.

Hurricane Katrina transformed New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward into an overnight nightmare, a cultural tabula rasa. Five years later, it is obvious that housing remains a challenge. Curiously, when international style modernism crossed the Atlantic, housing as anthropology became the domain of personal psychology—a transition from the collective to the ego. In New Orleans the age-old housing question persists: who is the client—the inhabitant, the builder, the financier, the state, the municipality, the city, or the community? Perhaps as argued by Sloterdijk and Lerup— space is no longer architectural, but anthropological.

DEAL, Carl and LESSIN, Tia (Independent) Documenting Survival.

While the news media swarmed the Gulf Coast to cover Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, relatively little of its coverage showed the residents of the region as resilient survivors, but instead portrayed them as helpless and hopeless victims, and, often, criminals. The Academy Award® nominated documentary Trouble the Water tells a different story, one of New Orleans residents as active agents in their own lives surviving not only failed levees, bungling bureaucrats, and armed soldiers, but also a system that has failed them and their community. Directors Tia Lessin and Carl Deal discuss the making of Trouble the Water, and the challenges of using independent media and art to support global social change movements.




UWM’s Undergraduate Research Symposium
April 24, 2009

Theodore Badger, Architecture, Lower Ninth Ward Project- New Housing Development

Andrew Held, Anthropology, Re-building and Re-newing: New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina “Roots Run Deep Here”

Crystal Owney, Business, Have Banks Recovered after the Hurricane Katrina?

Cua Vang, Information Sciences, Gaining and Growing through Cultural Experiences: We Went in as Strangers and Came Out as a Family

Ehan Whitney, Architecture, Learning From New Orleans


American Folklore Society 121st Annual Meeting
Examining the Ethics of Place
October 21-25, 2009
Boise, Idaho

DOSEMAGEN, Shannon and HASSMAN, Monique (U Wisc-Milwaukee) ‘The Worst Thing after Katrina was the Silence’: Reclaiming Communitythrough the Language of Public Memory.


Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life National Conference
Culture, Crisis, and Recovery
Thursday, October 1, through Saturday, October 3, 2009
New Orleans, Louisiana

Imagining America Consortium Representatives Annual Meeting and Luncheon
Plenary Session: Strategies for Organizing Your Campus IA Initiatives

At this lunchtime workshop, we will ask consortium representatives to create and discuss strategies for organizing Imagining America initiatives on a campus-wide basis. Many IA affiliates have one or two strong projects, but may not have taken IA to the level of a campus-wide, institutionalized organization with resources for sustaining momentum and engaging diverse faculty, students, and staff. Workshop facilitators will begin by sharing their experience at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, including how project leaders cultivated partners, engaged the administration, used technology for outreach, chose emphases, and began long-term planning. Break-out groups will then discuss resources and obstacles on their own campuses and sketch out action plans that can be reported back for plenary session discussion. For background information, participants should browse

This workshop and discussion will be facilitated by Rita Cheng, Provost; Cheryl Ajirotutu, Associate Professor of Anthropology; and Gregory Jay, Professor of English.

From Milwaukee to New Orleans: Organizing a Public Scholarship Project Within and Between Campuses and Communities

What are some of the lessons learned about building multi-campus partnerships and community collaborations in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita? After the storms, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM), like many institutions of higher education across the nation, began mobilizing an immediate response to hurricane victims. The Office of the Provost provided the leadership for campus-wide efforts to address this national disaster. A task force was formed to coordinate campus efforts and discuss strategies for immediate and long-term planning efforts focused on multi-institutional collaborations and community partnerships. Lead faculty established contacts with colleagues in Louisiana and began outreach to community groups in New Orleans. A winter-term course now brings students to New Orleans where they engage in community-based projects that support their participation in knowledge creation.

The panel presentation will focus on the growing importance of public scholarship as a campus-wide discussion. Breakout sessions will include administrators, students, and community representatives who will engage participants in discussions of building institutional infrastructure, coordinating community partnerships, implementing curricular collaboration, and demonstrating outcomes of students’ learning through active civic engagement.

Panelists include Provost Rita Cheng, UW-Milwaukee; Cheryl Ajirotutu, Anthropology, and Associate Director, Cultures and Communities Program, UW-Milwaukee; and Joyce Marie Jackson, Geography and Anthropology, LSU-Baton Rouge.

Breakout group facilitators include Gregory Jay, English, and Director, Cultures and Communities Program, UW-Milwaukee; Laura Pedrick, Special Assistant to the Provost, UW-Milwaukee; Monique Hassman, Anthropology, UW-Milwaukee; Karondellet Womack Williams, Anthropology, LSU-Baton Rouge; and Valeria Schexnayder, Lower 9th Ward Resident and UWM’s Community Scholar in Residence (2009).