'It was a beautiful day. we didn't think of ourselves as evacuees'

September 16, 2005

Film studies lecturer Diane Negra had been in New Orleans just a week when Hurricane Katrina struck

Diane Negra, senior lecturer in film studies at the University of East Anglia, had an unexpectedly complex journey this week to deliver a keynote address at Paisley University's conference on celebrity culture.

A week before the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina, Dr Negra began a year's sabbatical at Tulane University in New Orleans. She accepted a lift from colleagues hours before the storm hit and, since space in the car was limited, she took only two changes of clothing.

"It was a beautiful sunny day. We didn't think of ourselves as evacuees in a dramatic sense. It seemed ludicrous to take my work," she said.

Dr Negra's laptop containing ten years' worth of research and the draft of her book on postfeminism and contemporary culture is still in New Orleans.

"I had things backed up but kept them in the same place as the laptop," she said. Satellite pictures suggest her flat may have escaped the worst of the flooding, but she does not know whether the area was looted.

Dr Negra, an American, also left behind her British work permit and discovered a further complication as she prepared to return to the UK. If she entered the country without it, this breach would have prevented UEA continuing to pay her salary.

"The level of help I received from the UEA personnel office was amazing, most impressive," she says. They faxed a copy of the work permit to the British consulate in New York.

She is grateful for the impetus of the conference. "It's done me a world of good at a difficult time to keep on working."

Dr Negra has since made one resolution. "I'm going to get one of these magic sticks that can store lots of data on them."

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