Society for Urban, National and Transnational/Global Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Jackson, the capital city of Mississippi, sits on 1,200 miles of concrete-paved roads dotted by mounds of asphalt peeking up and settling inside an ever-growing number of potholes (COJ 2015). In 2018, STANTEC, an outside planning agency, found that 60% of Jackson streets have “zero life” left, designating that, without total reconstruction, the majority of the city’s roads are damaged past the point of repair (Wolfe 2018). Drawing on the work of Ann Stoler, this paper seeks to understand road conditions in Jackson as an ongoing political process of ruination (Stoler 2013). The “death” of these streets reflects a larger deterioration of built space connected to decades of uneven policies rooted in particular racialized planning processes and modes of spatial segregation. As sites of ruination, this paper looks for the discourses and practices by which Jackson residents interact with the road, including the metaphorical weight placed upon potholes and the embodied detours roads unevenly force some Mississippians to make. Exploring the “haunting” realities of living within these ruins, it asks: how do racial and imperial logics persist and “live on” in the material debris of road infrastructure? How, like other forms of haunting, does this produce an affective call for “something-to-be-done,” including modes of participatory governance and acts of resistance on the road (Gordon 2008:xvi)? And, further, how do collective acts animating these ruins in Jackson call attention to the larger processes producing uneven “deaths” of material landscapes in other urban spaces?