My work takes up the future as a political object, considering what state efforts to think and enact environmental futures look like from the sedimented space of late industrialism.
In my current project, Forgotten in Anticipation: Baltimore After Progress, I explore the historical and embodied residues of future-oriented governance in south Baltimore over a 200-year period – from the area's 19th century life as a quarantine zone through its more recent past as the proposed site for "renewable" energy projects. Based on a decade of work among residents, activists, industrialists, and bureaucrats there, the book tells the story of a city built on profound uncertainties. It also considers how residents living in the wake of such uncertainties manage the everyday work of getting on. In my emerging work, Vacant: Climate Crisis and the Unpeopling of Baltimore, I investigate how the city's climate-adaptation planning process is resignifying vacant homes and crumbling infrastructure as "systemic vulnerabilities." Specifically, I ask how strategies of intervention, methods of governance, and models of responsibility shift when signs of chronic neglect become, in the context of climate change, future-oriented problems. Both projects combine ethnographic research with intensive archival study, contributing to a research program that lies at the intersection of anthropology and urban history.
Before joining Cornell, I was a Collegiate Assistant Professor and Harper-Schmidt Fellow at the University of Chicago. Before that, I earned my doctorate in anthropology at George Washington University. And before that, I worked toward a master's degree in education at Johns Hopkins while teaching elementary school in south Baltimore. Beyond the academy, I worked as a volunteer political educator with Baltimore-based United Workers until 2018. I also dabble in family archiving. Lately, I have been working to process my grandfather's personal papers from the Civil Rights Movement.
chloeahmann [at] cornell [dot] edu