Strangers in Their Own Land

Strangers in Their Own Land

by

Arlie Russell Hochschild

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The Bayou Corne Sinkhole Symbol Analysis

The Bayou Corne Sinkhole Symbol Icon

The sinkhole that destroyed the town where Mike Schaff was set to retire comes to symbolize the way that environmental devastation swallows up people’s communities, livelihoods, and memories. Schaff was excited to retire in Bayou Corne because it would finally let him live on the water, like he did in his childhood, among a tight-knit community of neighbors, but the sinkhole ruins his dreams. The sinkhole—caused by irresponsible oil drilling—made his new home so dangerous to live in that he worried that striking a match would cause an explosion, his wife leaves town, and his grandchildren cannot visit. The sinkhole destroyed many of his neighbors’ homes, as well, and led them to disperse throughout the region, scattering Schaff’s newfound community. And Texas Brine, the oil company responsible for the sinkhole, was incredibly slow to compensate the disaster victims, while the state did nothing to help them relocate. Schaff stays in his new home out of a sense of nostalgia for the ideal community he had briefly found, but oil companies and the state intentionally bury the memory of a similar sinkhole accident at nearby Lake Peigneur by producing a film that shifted the blame and marketing the site as a tourist attraction. Like many of Hochschild’s “strangers,” Schaff holds onto his memories of the place he lost, despite the structural amnesia imposed by the alliance between Jindal’s state and big oil.

The Bayou Corne Sinkhole Quotes in Strangers in Their Own Land

The Strangers in Their Own Land quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Bayou Corne Sinkhole. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Trust, Empathy, and Political Progress Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the The New Press edition of Strangers in Their Own Land published in 2016.
Chapter 13 Quotes

“We need Mikes.” Don't be a Cowboy in enduring pollution, he seemed to say. Be a Cowboy fighting it.

Related Symbols: The Bayou Corne Sinkhole
Page Number: 195
Explanation and Analysis:

The “federal government” filled a mental space in Mike's mind—and the minds of all those on the right I came to know—associated with a financial sinkhole.

Related Characters: Arlie Russell Hochschild (speaker), Mike Schaff
Related Symbols: The Bayou Corne Sinkhole
Page Number: 202
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Bayou Corne Sinkhole Symbol Timeline in Strangers in Their Own Land

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Bayou Corne Sinkhole appears in Strangers in Their Own Land. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1 – Traveling to the Heart
Government Regulation and Individual Freedom Theme Icon
The Environment and the Economy Theme Icon
...him at an environmental rally where he was speaking. A few years before, a huge sinkhole “robbed” him of his new home, and a “lightly regulated drilling company” caused the catastrophe.... (full context)
Chapter 7 – The State: Governing the Market 4,000 Feet Below
Trust, Empathy, and Political Progress Theme Icon
Government Regulation and Individual Freedom Theme Icon
...government could have prevented and then reveals that this is precisely what happened when the Bayou Corne Sinkhole opened in the town. (full context)
Government Regulation and Individual Freedom Theme Icon
...said everything was fine, but soon thereafter the town’s first-ever earthquake hit, and a gas-sputtering sinkhole opened up in the middle of the bayou. “As if a plug was pulled in... (full context)
Government Regulation and Individual Freedom Theme Icon
The Environment and the Economy Theme Icon
The sinkhole was caused by Texas Brine, a salt drilling company operating in Bayou Corne against the... (full context)
Trust, Empathy, and Political Progress Theme Icon
The Environment and the Economy Theme Icon
Seven months after the sinkhole first opened, Governor Bobby Jindal visited Bayou Corne’s displaced residents, many of whom were still... (full context)
Government Regulation and Individual Freedom Theme Icon
The Environment and the Economy Theme Icon
...apologizes for his lawn’s poor condition and admits that he has become depressed since the sinkhole opened. He has lived in Bayou Corne for the last five years, but now he... (full context)
Trust, Empathy, and Political Progress Theme Icon
Government Regulation and Individual Freedom Theme Icon
The Environment and the Economy Theme Icon
...he knew they were drilling near a weak cavern wall that could lead to a sinkhole. Hochschild remarks that the problem was “that the state government had barely been present at... (full context)
Chapter 13 – The Rebel: A Team Loyalist with a New Cause
Trust, Empathy, and Political Progress Theme Icon
The Environment and the Economy Theme Icon
...met Mike Schaff, who wore a yellow “Bayou Corne Sinkhole” T-shirt and introduced a fellow sinkhole victim “with tears in his voice.” He said that he was a “water baby” who... (full context)
Government Regulation and Individual Freedom Theme Icon
The Environment and the Economy Theme Icon
...on a number of related issues, such as Texas Brine’s later request to use the sinkhole they created as a toxic dumping site. He wrote 50 letters to officials and did... (full context)
The Environment and the Economy Theme Icon
Personal Identity and Emotional Self-Interest Theme Icon
After the sinkhole first opened, Mike organized a group of residents and got in touch with General Honoré.... (full context)
The Environment and the Economy Theme Icon
Capitalism, Media, and Class Conflict Theme Icon
...side of the highway, the star of the TV series Duck Dynasty, and a fellow sinkhole victim who proclaimed himself “‘a poor’ man” in front of a crowd that knew better.... (full context)
Trust, Empathy, and Political Progress Theme Icon
Government Regulation and Individual Freedom Theme Icon
The Environment and the Economy Theme Icon
...time with his grandchildren” at his new house in Bayou Corne. But, before long, the sinkhole opened and Bayou Corne became “a ghost town encroached on by thirty-two acres of toxic... (full context)
Government Regulation and Individual Freedom Theme Icon
The Environment and the Economy Theme Icon
...he knows about the Louisiana state government, which he sees as a kind of “financial sinkhole.” To an extent, this makes sense: after the 2009 bank bailout, the government seems allied... (full context)
Chapter 16 – “They Say There Are Beautiful Trees”
Government Regulation and Individual Freedom Theme Icon
The Environment and the Economy Theme Icon
Capitalism, Media, and Class Conflict Theme Icon
...hospitals into private hands, and ultimately put “the entire state of Louisiana […] into a sinkhole.” (full context)
Afterword to the Paperback Edition
Government Regulation and Individual Freedom Theme Icon
The Environment and the Economy Theme Icon
...Enforcement, Trump chose Scott Angelle, the official who okayed the drilling that led to the Bayou Corne Sinkhole . His pick to lead the EPA, Scott Pruitt, has started slashing its budget. Louisiana... (full context)