|Fluidity, rigidity and consequence. A comparative historical geography of the Mississippi and Sénégal River deltas and the deltaic urbanism of New Orleans and Saint-Louis|
Campanella, R. (2014). Fluidity, rigidity and consequence. A comparative historical geography of the Mississippi and Sénégal River deltas and the deltaic urbanism of New Orleans and Saint-Louis. Built Environ. 40(2): 184-200
In: Built Environment. Alexandrine Press: Oxford. ISSN 0263-7960; e-ISSN 0308-1508
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This article analyzes two comparable yet distinct river deltas, the Sénégal and the Mississippi, towards bringing into relief the consequences of imposing rigidity upon fluid natural environments. What invites this comparison is the similar histories and colonial experiences of the two delta cities in question, Saint-Louis du Sénégal in western Africa and New Orleans, Louisiana on the Gulf of Mexico coast of the United States. The analysis begins with a tracing of the channel and watersheds of the Sénégal and Mississippi rivers from the headwaters to their mouths, and explains the role of fluidity and dynamism in the formation of their deltas. Next it recounts the structural 'hardening' of these conditions, both in the foundation of the two cities as well as in the constraint and control imposed over their respective inland rivers. We then assess the dire consequences of this transformation, and use these lessons to extract comparative information on the two deltaic systems. We find that the Sénégal and Mississippi Deltas, while hydrologically different, are united in the dilemmatic nature of their shared crises. Saving both deltas will mean that some human communities, despite their historical, cultural, and economic significance, will have to relocate to minimize future loss and allow aggressive coastal restoration to commence.