John Laudun is associate professor of English at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. His work has appeared in African American Review, Journal of American Folklore, and other scholarly journals, and his expertise has been cited in the New York Times and many other national outlets.
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The Amazing Crawfish Boat
The remarkable story of the Cajuns and Germans of Louisiana who conquered the rice fields and spawned an aquaculture bonanza
In any given year, the Louisiana crawfish harvest tops 50,000 tons. The Amazing Crawfish Boat chronicles the development of an amphibious boat that transformed the Louisiana prairies into a powerhouse of aquaculture alongside agriculture. In seeking to understand how such an amazing machine came into being, John Laudun describes the ideas and traditions that have long been a part of the landscape and how they converged at a particular moment in time to create a new economic opportunity for both the rice farmers who used them and the fabricators who made them.
Louisiana residents of the prairies and marshes understand the landscape on which they live and have, over the years, produced an astonishing set of artifacts that demonstrate not only their ability to adapt, but their ability to innovate. The crawfish boat is a great example of such creativity produced by individuals deeply embedded in their culture and place. To ascertain their inventiveness, Laudun examines the larger historical and cultural trends that led to this creation. He draws from archives, oral histories, and ethnographic accounts. In order to understand the nature of their craft and their imaginations, Laudun then turns to a closer examination of the shops and sheds where these boatwrights labor. While the lives of artists and scientists have been examined for what they tell us about innovation, in The Amazing Crawfish Boat the author seeks to address creativity as part of a larger cultural complex of ideas and behaviors.
The Louisiana prairies are populated not just by Cajuns but also by Germans. As these groups settled they developed the complex mix of folk cultures that underlies a variety of traditions that are now seen as native to the area. Only through the diversity of the community and environment can the reader understand the importance of creativity in a setting where innovations might not be expected to flourish.
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