Accepted Papers:

Good Mourning Baltimore: Activism, Governance, and the Interstate Highway Project  


Amanda K Phillips (Virginia Tech)

Paper Short Abstract:

Freeway Revolts across the United States hindered the construction of the Interstate Highway Project. This paper looks at the influence of local community planning boards on infrastructure development following activist intervention.

Paper long abstract:

Freeway Revolts across the United States slowed, and in some cases stopped the construction of interstate highway infrastructure. The momentum of these activist interventions encouraged federal regulations that limited the power of technocrats to dictate the placement of new segments of the Interstate. Instead, decision making and planning shifted to local governance boards. This paper looks at the early development of these planning boards in relationship to the activist efforts that led to their creation. How do the voices, projects, and motivations of actors translate as power in techno-political decision making becomes local? What accounts and bodies might be neglected in the wake of this change?

By drawing from the archival records left by Movement Against Destruction (MAD), a Baltimore organization that fought against interstate plans, this paper explores accounts of space, (dis)possession, and citizenship that shaped relationships to the planned highway. These efforts imbued value into homes, parks, and communal spaces by successfully arguing that existing infrastructures were vital to the larger city and community. This resisted the national interstate building effort to decrease automotive congestion, increase security, and promote national unity through technological connectedness. Narratives of resistance framed the eventual shape of the interstate in its current form. These accounts elucidate bodily relationships to contested infrastructural spaces, but also provide a mechanism to analyze the way activism adapts once it is legitimized by the state.

panel T085
Infrastructures, subjects, politics