I am an environmental anthropologist studying the long afterlife of American industry. My work is based in Baltimore, where I follow industrialism’s enduring traces in toxified landscapes, patchy regulation, quotidian expressions of white supremacy, and particular orientations toward time. I am especially interested in what kinds of environmental futures take form amid these legacies.
In my current book project, Forgotten in Anticipation: Baltimore After Progress, I explore the residues of future-oriented governance on the south side of the city. Moving from the area’s 19th century life as a quarantine zone through its more recent past as the proposed site for “renewable” energy projects, I track harm done in the name of progress. I also consider what it feels like to be an industrial subject living on the cusp of the postindustrial era, with that hoped-for future freshly out of reach. By following people’s efforts to plant their feet at the end of that world—to imagine futures after progress—the book seeks insight into the paths we might yet take to approach climate catastrophe.
My emerging work takes a more explicit turn toward climate change governance, investigating efforts to steel the city for increasingly strange weather. In this project, I study how vacant homes and crumbling infrastructure are being reimagined as “systemic vulnerabilities.” Like Forgotten in Anticipation, this work combines 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.
chloeahmann [at] cornell [dot] edu