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This rich, interdisciplinary work straddles urban studies, American studies, history and literature, and looks at New Orlean's 'exceptional' status over the course of the twentieth century. As author Eckstein shows, 'sustainability' has multiple applications in the context of New Orleans history - not just the preservation of the city's rich historical legacy, but also the sustainability of its ecology, economy and social milieu.
Eckstein's central theme is the longstanding contest between the city's Creole 'folkways', which sustain its rich historical memory, and the 'technicways' characteristic of planning experts and modern American mass culture. She explores how the city's voodoo and Creole traditions have both separated New Orleans from the rest of modern America and provided the 'folk' of the city an alternate tradition to look to. Throughout, providing the source material is New Orleans' fantastically rich cultural tradition: the works of Anne Rice, Tennessee Williams, Nelson Algren, Walker Percy, Ishmael Reed and Helen Prejean.