Meredith Reifschneider

Grant Type

Post PhD Research Grant

Institutional Affiliation

San Francisco State U.

Grant number

Gr. 10271

Approve Date

April 13, 2022

Project Title

Reifschneider, Meredith (San Francisco State U.) "The “Last Free Place”: Ruination and Sustainable Futures at the Salton Sea"

This proposal outlines an archaeological ethnographic project at East Jesus, a community located at the Salton Sea in Southern California’s Imperial Valley. East Jesus was established in 2007 as a sustainability-focused, off-the-grid artist collective. Popular and official discourses about the Salton Sea position it as a post-apocalyptic wasteland and ecological ruin, but also an untapped resource for energy development. These representations overlook East Jesus’ material practices and modes of habitation in this landscape. This project asks: how do residents of East Jesus use the features of the Salton Sea’s ‘ruined’ landscape to forge sustainable ways of living? How do representations of the Sea as a ruined landscape undergird East Jesus’ status as an unregulated and ‘off-the-grid’ community while also authorizing new regimes of resource extraction? As East Jesus residents contest economic development schemes in the region, they articulate commitments to modes of living in and with a ruined landscape, making them an important case study to complicate or reject notions of the Anthropocene as a space of material and environmental abjection. As such, this project contributes to anthropological debates concerning the changing ecologies of capital and destruction, ways of living in the ruins of modernity, and sustainability and climate change.