Brian Walter

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

California, Santa Cruz, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9966

Approve Date

October 30, 2019

Project Title

Walter, Brian (California, Santa Cruz, U. of) "Sedimented Futures: heritage and the racial politics of flood infrastructure in the South Carolina Lowcountry"

With a 50% increase in annual flooding and a major hurricane every year for the past 4 years, an environmental crisis is building in Charleston, South Carolina. Last year, the city government named flooding “the #1 priority” and began swift actions to preserve the city’s famous antebellum heritage sites, proposing a new sea-wall and drainage project, while African-American settlement communities received little relief from their chronic inundation. Though Charleston’s confederate monumentality has been well critiqued for buttressing white supremacy and “lost cause” ideologies, my research focuses on how this heritage landscape dictates the displacement of rising floodwater by forming the basis of mitigation decisions. To examine this I explore Charleston’s hydrology as an ethnographic terrain, characterized by uneven political, historical, and technical entanglements with a changing environment, in order to contribute a situated investigation of racism as a historical and ecological landscape assemblage. Though city officials frequently claim that “water knows no boundaries”, I follow floodwater and the communities it impacts to understand the ways inequity is channeled, routed, and racialized.