The I of the Storm: An Assessment of Celebrity and the Social Construction of Hurricane Katrina
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Recent theory on the role of celebrity in a contemporary context emphasizes the unique manner in which celebrity pervades public discourse. This thesis examines the interrelationship between celebrity and disaster theory in order to evaluate the extent to which celebrity had access to public and media discourse about Hurricane Katrina. Attention is also focused on the ways in which celebrity was manifested within this discourse. Social constructionism is employed here as the theoretical lens through which celebrity and disaster merge. With regard to methodology, qualitative elements of Altheide’s (1987) ethnographic content analysis are used to decipher the claims made by and about celebrity within the Katrina news media narrative. In order to address questions of context, Fine’s (1997) adaptation of Smelser’s (1962) value-added model is used to identify some of the structural considerations from which these claims emerge. From this examination, three substantive themes emerge: (1) Gabler’s (1998) celebrity theory offers a suitable approach to the examination of the intersection between celebrity and Hurricane Katrina; (2) Due to the character of this assessment, constructionist applications which consider not only the role of claims-makers but the structural context of claims-making activities provide the most comprehensive framework; (3) The pervasiveness of celebrity in the contemporary context, combined with the dissensus surrounding the Katrina event, allowed celebrities to adopt unique roles within the Katrina narrative.