Kevin Michael Burke
Grant TypePost PhD Research Grant
Institutional AffiliationLehigh U.
Grant numberGr. 10259
Approve DateApril 13, 2022
Project TitleBurke, Kevin (Lehigh U.) "The Social Lives of Dead Trees: ghost forests and the politics of landscape management across the US Atlantic Coastal Plain"
Low-lying forest landscapes are rapidly converting to saltwater marshes and swamps along the eastern seaboard of the United States due to climate change. This process is producing a particular forest type that biologists refer to as a “ghost forest.” These forests, which are characterized by the synchronous mass death of trees, are particularly striking figures of the climate run amok. For this project, I will study the ghost forests in New Jersey and North Carolina as points of departure for thinking through multiple and overlapping histories – including histories and ongoing forms of violence and extraction, speculation, forms of government, and knowledge practices – in order to show how ghost forests become a forest type of the Anthropocene. I propose an ethnographic study of the social lives of dead trees that will answer an interrelated set of questions: 1) How do ghost forests become an object of concern in the cultural politics of climate change in the United States? 2) How might ghost forests challenge forms of government? 3) What are the histories and ongoing forms of extraction that correspond to ghost forests in particular places? How does speculation and accumulation become the spectral and decay?