Parallel politics: the spatial power of New Orleans’ Labor Day parades Academic Article uri icon


  • The Black Men of Labor is a local social club whose parade marks the beginning of New Orleans' parading season on Labor Day weekend. Coincidentally, the homosexual, predominantly White male Southern Decadence party and parade is that same weekend - hosted by a large gay community living primarily in New Orleans' French Quarter. Although these two parading groups appear outwardly different, both parades make claims to the same street at different times. We call their politics 'parallel politics' because the parades have similar political motivations, yet they literally parade in parallel, and therefore fail to connect and protest their socio-spatial marginalization together. This missed opportunity led us to consider how these two parades territorialize space and project a unified community identity. Territoriality, according to Sack (1983), is an attempt to control a geographic area and establish differential access to it. Moving beyond previous work on parades as observed performances, boundary markers or negotiated representations, we show how parades create a territorially-based identity through cultural nodes, and how their exclusivity is both a process and outcome of territoriality. We argue that territoriality and identity are fused, which forecloses the possibility of collective action between these two communities. We find that parade territorialities simultaneously and complexly establish both social and spatial claims. © 2006 Taylor & Francis.

author list (cited authors)

  • O'Reilly, K., & Crutcher, M. E.

citation count

  • 25

publication date

  • April 2006