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Futures after Progress: Hope and Doubt in Late Industrial Baltimore

by Chloe Ahmann

University of Chicago Press, 2024


Paper: 978-0-226-83361-3

Cloth: 978-0-226-83359-0

eISBN: 978-0-226-83360-6

About the Book
A powerful ethnographic study of South Baltimore, a place haunted by toxic pasts in its pursuit of better futures.

Factory fires, chemical explosions, and aerial pollutants have inexorably shaped South Baltimore into one of the most polluted places in the country. In Futures after Progress, anthropologist Chloe Ahmann explores the rise and fall of industrial lifeways on this edge of the city and the uncertainties that linger in their wake. Writing from the community of Curtis Bay, where two hundred years of technocratic hubris have carried lethal costs, Ahmann also follows local efforts to realize a good future after industry and the rifts competing visions opened between neighbors.
Examining tensions between White and Black residents, environmental activists and industrial enthusiasts, local elders and younger generations, Ahmann shows how this community has become a battleground for competing political futures whose stakes reverberate beyond its six square miles in a present after progress has lost steam. And yet—as one young resident explains—“that’s not how the story ends.” Rigorous and moving, Futures after Progress probes the deep roots of our ecological predicament, offering insight into what lies ahead for a country beset by dreams deferred and a planet on the precipice of change.
About the Author
Chloe Ahmann is assistant professor of anthropology at Cornell University. This is her first book.
“I began this book as an anthropologist, but a few pages in, realized I was reading it as the little Black boy who acquired a chronic respiratory illness while growing up in Baltimore. I was playing football outside and suddenly couldn’t breathe. Then an ambulance came. Before long, inhalers, respirators, and ventilators were a feature of everyday life—both for me and my two brothers, who also suffered from asthma. I wish we had Ahmann’s book back then. Maybe, just maybe, we would’ve better understood the uncertainties of a childhood existence defined by hazy and noxious forces that threatened to debilitate and kill us. Written with empathy and backed by rigorous analysis, Futures after Progress is a revelation.”
— Laurence Ralph, author of Sito: An American Teenager and the City that Failed Him

“Ahmann folds time and space in this stunning ethnography to ask how a future tense forms after sacrifice, resilience, and progress are exhausted—a vital intervention into contemporary conditions.”
— Joseph Masco, University of Chicago

Air, Pollution, Maryland, Doubt, Environmental sociology, Environmental conditions, Environmental aspects, Industries, Environmental Conservation & Protection, African American & Black Studies, Cultural & Social, Nature, Social aspects, Cultural & Ethnic Studies, Anthropology, American, Social Science
Open Access Information

License: CC BY-NC-ND 4.0