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Tuesday, October 8 • 1:45pm - 2:15pm
Lightning Talk Round (10/8)

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Lightning Talk Round

Speakers, Titles, and Abstracts

Angelyn Chandler: Historic Districts: A call for equity

Hudson, New York, was established in 1783, as a whaling port. The form of the city is a grid of five blocks north to south, by nine blocks stretching east from the Hudson River. Despite removing blocks of historic fabric in the working class section of town during a period of urban renewal in the 1970s, Hudson is more-or-less an eighteenth and nineteenth-century city architecturally. Hudson has six historic districts, all of which exclude the urban renewal area and other historically intact sections in the working class areas—generally the north side of town--due to “deficiencies in architectural integrity and distinction”. The north side—roughly one quarter of the city--may not consist of high architecture, but underneath the alterations and dilapidation is a fabric that tells the story of the working class of Hudson. Because this area was left out of the historic districting, the homes there are not eligible for state historic tax credits which could significantly lower the cost of renovation and maintenance. This exclusion ensures that only the fabric—and the history--of the wealthier areas survives. When this exclusion has been challenged by homeowners and preservationists, renters who fear gentrification have shut the challengers down. By limiting access to financial and technical resources for maintenance and renovation to only those properties within a historic district, Hudson’s historic districting prioritizes the fabric of the wealthier neighborhoods and makes that of the rest of the city sacrificial. Maintenance thus becomes a political weapon to reinforce a particular cultural identity. But we can no longer tell only one story: the buildings of all of us should be valued and maintained.

Brandon Benevento: Representing Maintenance: Upkeep as Critical Reading and Writing Practice

Representation of maintenance offers authors writing practice that allows plotting of social/systemic criticism via direct representation of individuals working in specific settings. A recent illustration: HBO’s Succession, depicting a Fox-like media empire, begins with a maid scrubbing the founder’s urine from a rug after he mistakes the location of a bathroom. Using maintenance, the scene immediately establishes criticism of wealth. Weightier examples abound. Richard Wright uses maintenance jobs in Native Son to reveal black labor, far from the factory, as a systemic base. Across the political spectrum, Sloan Wilson’s The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit puts a nanny into the foreground only to make her wage demands a source of victimization of the white male protagonist, just another thing the breadwinner must keep up with. The reverse side of the writing-practice argument is that examining maintenance in texts provides critic's a powerful reading tool for illuminating political, social, racial, sexual and economic commitments and confusions. While facilitating detailed, intersectional readings based upon minute depictions of work, the greatest value of maintenance as an analytic device is simplicity. In accessible fashion, maintenance yields a few direct questions: Who and what maintains? Who and what is maintained? In terms of the practice of maintenance studies, “Maintenance,” as analytic tool (as much as a bundle of types of work) helps navigate a major tension in my own research and thinking. Maintenance registers as deeply undervalued and exploited and yet as fulfilling, interconnecting, creative, work. While I have little in the way of “solving” this bind, applying such dual-sidedness as an analytic concept has a lot to offer studies of literature, culture and labor. More importantly, it helps articulate actual positive and negative qualities of work, even in mixed up form.

Matt Battles: The Careful Archipelago: Performing Maintenance in the Penguin Exhibit

We talk of performing maintenance; how do we confront its performativity? I bring this question to bear on my own experience as a maintainer during six months I spent volunteering with the penguin crew at the New England Aquarium—where care is enacted, among birds as bodies and communities, under conditions of notable theatricality. An interdependence is woven in the exhibit's waters, a performance of what Donna Haraway (2003) calls "significant otherness," in which care-ful human labors unfold in relation to nonhuman flourishing. This enactment of care stands apart from the Aquarium's interpretive program, which emphasizes ecology and exotic marine otherness. The exhibit is framed with placards that tell of evolution and reproduction, of populations threatened by climate change; wall-mounted maps indicate the far-flung islands where colonies perch. But the archipelago that Aquarium penguins occupy is stranger than any mapped there: an ecological niche framed and enacted—scrubbed clean—by the performance of maintenance. My talk for the Maintainers conference will tease out and frame this enjambment of interpretation and the performance of care, with special attention to the public mise-en-scene of maintenance.

Varun Adibhatla: The Guild of Leaks, Cracks, and Holes

The guild is an invitation to create a community of art, evidence, kinship, and practice around an ethos of Maintenance to share with, entertain, and inform a world preoccupied with moving fast and breaking things in the public realm. This lighting talking introduces the guild's aspirational coat of arms.

Justin Shapiro: Decent, Safe, and Sanitary? Kenilworth Courts and the Envirotechnical Failures of Public Housing in Washington, D.C. (Advance Copy PDF Below)

Throughout his career, John Ihlder sought “decent, safe, and sanitary” housing for the poorest residents of the District of Columbia. During his tenure as head of the National Capital Housing Authority he oversaw the establishment and growth of Washington’s public housing program. Despite his vision, ultimately Washington’s public housing agency was unable to deliver such beneficial housing to its poorest residents. This discussion details one particular case study, that of Kenilworth Courts. By doing so, I will highlight the envirotechnical forces that determined the negative public health outcomes at Kenilworth Courts.

Abstracts may be edited due to character limits

Tuesday October 8, 2019 1:45pm - 2:15pm EDT