I am an environmental anthropologist studying the long afterlife of American industry. My work is based in Baltimore, where I follow industrialism’s enduring traces in toxified landscapes, patchy regulation, quotidian expressions of white supremacy, and particular orientations toward time. I am especially interested in what kinds of environmental futures take form amid these legacies.
In my current book project, Futures After Progress: Living with Doubt in Late Industrial Baltimore, I explore the residues of future-oriented governance on the south side of the city. Moving from the area’s 19th century life as a quarantine zone through its more recent past as the proposed site for “renewable” energy projects, I track harm done in the name of progress. I also consider what it feels like to be an industrial subject living on the cusp of the postindustrial era, with that hoped-for future freshly out of reach. By following people’s efforts to plant their feet at the end of that world—to imagine futures after progress—the book seeks insight into the paths we might yet take to approach climate catastrophe.
I am also pursuing two new projects. One stays in Baltimore but takes a more explicit turn toward climate change governance, investigating efforts to steel the city for increasingly strange weather. In this project, I study how vacant homes and crumbling infrastructure are being reimagined as “systemic vulnerabilities.” Like Futures After Progress, this work combines ethnographic research with intensive archival study, contributing to a research program that lies at the intersection of anthropology and urban history.
The second project concerns the rising tide of ecofascist sentiments in the United States, focusing on the dark utopian visions that sustain them, as well as their adherents’ anti-modernist critiques.
My research has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the American Council of Learned Societies. I also serve on the editorial board for Anthropological Quarterly. At Cornell, I teach courses on time, environment, and research design that draw together fiction, film, critical theory, and ethnographic texts, approaching anthropology as a capacious mode of inquiry.
Co-editor (with Alison Kenner) of “Breathing Late Industrialism.” 2020. Engaging Science, Technology, and Society 6: 416–590.
Books and Edited Collections
“Breathing Late Industrialism.” 2020. Engaging Science, Technology, and Society 6: 416–590. (Co-edited with Alison Kenner.)
“Postindustrial Futures and the Edge of the Frontier.” Accepted at Anthropological Quarterly.
"Atmospheric Coalitions: Shifting the Middle in Late Industrial Baltimore." 2020. Engaging Science, Technology, and Society 6: 462–85.
"Breathing Late Industrialism." 2020. Engaging Science, Technology, and Society 6: 416–38. (Co-authored with Alison Kenner.)
"Unbelonging: The Politics of Address." 2020. Part of a peer-reviewed forum called "Futile Political Gestures." Galina Stjepanovic, ed. Anthropological Theory Commons, October 16.
“Waste-to-Energy: Garbage Prospects and Subjunctive Politics in Late-industrial Baltimore.” 2019. American Ethnologist 46(3): 328–42.
Winner of the Anthropology and Environment Society's 2019 Junior Scholar Award
Selected by AE for reprint (open access) in 2021 issue of Déjà Lu
“‘It’s exhausting to create an event out of nothing.’ Slow Violence and the Manipulation of Time.” 2018. Cultural Anthropology 33(1): 142–71.
“Accountable Talk: ‘Real’ Conversations in Baltimore City Schools.” 2017. Anthropology and Education Quarterly 48(1): 77–97.
“‘…And That’s Why I Teach For America’: American Education Reform and the Role of Redemptive Stories.” 2016. Text & Talk 36(2): 111–31.
“Teach For All: Storytelling ‘Shared Solutions’ and Scaling Global Reform.” 2015. Education Policy Analysis Archives 23(45): 1–27.
“The Sustainability Myth: Environmental Gentrification and the Politics of Justice by Melissa Checker.” 2021. Political and Legal Anthropology Review.
“Define and Rule: Native as Political Identity by Mahmood Mamdani.” 2013. Anthropological Quarterly 86(3): 927–33.
"Toxic Disavowal." 2020. Somatosphere, January 20.
Interview with Alize Arıcan. 2019. Features, American Ethnologist, September 20.
“America’s Post-industrial Futures.” 2018. Photo essay for Sapiens. November 28.
Interview with Alexandra Vieux Frankel. 2018. Dialogues, Cultural Anthropology, June 19.
“Trump’s Slogan: More About the ‘Make’ Than the ‘Great.’” 2017. Op Ed for Sapiens. April 25. With Vincent Ialenti.
“The Incinerator Does Not Exist: Sensory Engagement with Toxic Potentials.” 2017. Part of a series called “Sensory Engagements with a Toxic World.” Chisato Fukuda, ed. Second Spear, Medical Anthropology Quarterly. March 29.
“On Not Being Seen.” 2016. Part of a series called “Ethnographer as Advocate.” Haley Bryant and Emily Cain, eds. Anthropology News. February 17.
“Curtis on the Bay: Failed Development and the Mythology of Trump.” 2016. Part of a series called “Crisis of Liberalism.” Dominic Boyer, ed. Hot Spots, Cultural Anthropology. November 30.