Reconstructing the future
This dissertation examines the role of commemorative sites and practices in shaping and contesting uneven coastal development in Plaquemines Parish. It centers the lived experiences and future visions of Black residents in historic freedpeoples communities—villages founded by formerly enslaved people during the late 1860s—to understand this connection. In Plaquemines Parish and across the Louisiana coast, state-constructed heritage sites are landmarks for coastal planning and investment. Forts, plantation manors, and parks that were fashioned as sites of white leisure through the mid-twentieth century are today promoted by parish and state agencies as locations worthy of protection from subsidence and rising seas. On the other hand, Black residents in Plaquemines freedpeople’s communities draw on longstanding place-based relationships, organizing traditions, and built environments to critique state dispossession and prefigure inclusive development. The dissertation advances three interrelated arguments. First, that state-sanctioned heritage sites are infrastructures for concentrating state investment around those in power. Second, this power is contingent and contested. And third, place-based organizations in historic freedpeople’s communities are infrastructures for preserving community practices of care and advancing alternative visions.