Authors: Pavithra Vasudevan*, University of Texas - Austin
Topics: Qualitative Methods, Ethnicity and Race, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: Performance ethnography, Environmental justice, Black geographies, Toxicity
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded
In Badin, North Carolina, an early aluminum smelting site that is the site of an environmental justice struggle today, Black residents struggle to reconcile the loyalty, pride and purpose they gained from contributing to industrial production, with growing awareness of their disposability to the company, the town, and the nation-state. In this presentation, I reflect on the process of developing an ethnographic play in the course of research that sought to re-animate historical memory by interrogating the silences, hauntings and erasures of the archives. Titled “Race and Waste in an Aluminum Town,” the play drew on oral history excerpts, ethnographic observations and archival material to narrate how anti-Black racism and toxic waste converged in the history of Badin. I intersperse scenes from multiple stagings of the play alongside moments from interviews and community dialogues following the play, to reflect on oral history performance as a methodology for knowing, narrating and excavating racialized toxicity. In doing so, I consider Black feminist methods of curatorial and choreographic praxis as vital to disrupting the capitalist production of dead archives.