Course Description

This course was an artistic and ethnographic approach to the hard labor of hurricane relief. Before departure we did preparatory work in the Bay. We then embarked as a totally self-sufficient relief force, living together in a bus and working to rebuild houses, restore green spaces, and perform direct service to thecitizens of New Orleans.

Bringing Back the Bayou: Direct Hurricane Relief in New Orleans

We brought and prepared our own food and supplies so that we were never a burden to the hosts who made this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity available to us. We offered our labor to the embattled city, and we also tried to capture our experience to the best of our abilities so that all interested members of the SMC community can closely follow our undertaking.

Using digital cameras and mini-disc recorders, we conducted creative ethnographies of our own experience and of the lives we encountered in Louisiana. We prepared slide shows and Powerpoint presentations to present to the College community upon our return. We will offer our material to all campus and local media so that our experience can be shared as widely as possible.


Selections from Pedagogy of the Oppressed, texts on visual anthropology, ethnography and autoethnography.


This upper-division course was open to 10 seniors, 5 juniors, 5 sophomores, and 5 freshmen, if enough members of each class level have appropriate experience (as listed below). Admission to the course was based on applications that outline special skills that students possess. Preference was given to students in four primary categories:

  1. Manual labor experience, including construction, landscaping, carpentry, etc.,
  2. Digital art skills, including digital photography, graphic design, creative software, audio and video editing, etc.,
  3. Academic experience with fieldwork and/or service learning, and
  4. Specialized skills in health, physical fitness, or nutrition.


Students rated their own skill level in each of these areas and a panel evaluated the applications to select the registrants for the course.


$1800 per student. Deposit of $600 is due on registration.


JAN 073 (2006) or Signature of the Instructor


Basis for Final Grade:
Regular participation in pre-course preparation, active commitment to worksite activities, quality of participation in discussions and reflection activities in pre-course and course, quality of reflective materials/journals, quality of slideshow presentation upon return to California.