The Flood Last Time: ‘Muck’ and the uses of history in Kara Walker’s ‘Rumination’ on Katrina

Bibler, Michael (2010) The Flood Last Time: ‘Muck’ and the uses of history in Kara Walker’s ‘Rumination’ on Katrina. Journal of American Studies, 44 (3). pp. 503-518. ISSN 0021-8758

PDF (The Flood Last Time)
Flood_Last_Time_Fulltext.pdf - Published Version

Download (103kB) | Preview
Official URL:


Kara Walker describes her book After the Deluge (2007) as “rumination” on Hurricane Katrina structured in the form of a “visual essay.” The book combines Walker's own artwork and the works of other artists into “a narrative of fluid symbols” in which the overarching analogy of “murky, toxic waters” holds the potential to “become the amniotic fluid of a potentially new and difficult birth.” This essay considers Walker's use of history within this collection of images to show how the book opens up ways to interrogate Katrina's particular significance as a wholly new, and yet eerily familiar, historical “event.” Nuancing a reading of Walker's book with reference to James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time (1963), to which After the Deluge implicitly alludes, the essay examines Walker's artistic challenge to the notion that history is a narratable account of a past that precedes the present and demonstrates how that challenge encourages us to think about the potential uses of history within civil rights discourse after Katrina.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: T700 American studies
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Humanities
Depositing User: Michael Bibler
Date Deposited: 10 Dec 2012 14:31
Last Modified: 17 Dec 2023 13:46

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics