Chloe Ahmann Kessler
Grant TypeHunt Postdoctoral Fellowship
Institutional AffiliationCornell U.
Grant numberGr. 10176
Approve DateOctober 7, 2021
Project TitleKessler Chloe (Cornell U.) "Futures After Progress: Living with Doubt in Late Industrial Baltimore"
CHLOE KESSLER, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, was awarded a Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship in October 2021 to aid research and writing on “Futures After Progress: Living with Doubt in Late Industrial Baltimore.” Futures After Progress explores the central role of speculation in American life, from the vantage point of late industrial South Baltimore. The book is based on over a decade of fieldwork among residents, activists, industrialists, and bureaucrats there, and archival study covering more than 200 years. It tells the story of a place forged to enable futures elsewhere: from its early life as a quarantine zone under precautionary public-health regimes; through years provisioning the military for both real and speculative warfare; and culminating in plans to build the nation’s largest trash incinerator there, billed as a ‘climate solution’ and euphemistically called the Fairfield Renewable Energy Project. Early chapters concern how efforts by city, state, nation, and corporation to master the future through ever more conjectural modes of governance have produced an ambiguously toxic atmosphere that has shaved years off locals’ lives. Later chapters consider how people living with these burdens relate to the future from a present marked by doubt, after long-held expectations fall apart. Much of the ethnography tracks debates over the proposed incinerator, which were themselves debates about what residents could reasonably desire from within the haze kicked up by an aging industrial order. By following people’s efforts to plant their feet at the end of that world’so uncertain that conjecture has become a mode of life’the book seeks insights into the paths we might yet take, in the face of ecological apocalypse.