Brian Walter

Brian Walter

UC Santa Cruz, Department of Anthropology

Brian’s research explores how the impacts of climate-change-driven sea-level rise are compounded and racialized by infrastructure and heritage preservation in the South Carolina Lowcountry.

The Lowcountry is a region shaped by two histories: slavery and the tidal flow of water. With four consecutive years of hurricanes and 89 days of tidal flooding in Charleston in 2019, the Lowcountry’s relationship with the ebb and flow of the tides has become central in a new way, as a harbinger of future destruction. As local governments forge new tidal relations by building and adapting infrastructure, the preservation of antebellum heritage landscapes and everyday flooding of Black communities reveal enduring racial geographies. While officials in city meetings argue that “water knows no boundaries,” residents understand that the infrastructures underpinning the dispersal and management of floodwater enact a racialized politics of emplacement, inclusion, and exclusion.

Brian’s research is situated in this and other spaces where global climate change and water infrastructure become entangled with what Saidiya Hartman calls the afterlife of slavery. His dissertation offers new formulations of coastal resiliency and provides empirical support for local environmental justice organizations in their urgent claims for reparative flood mitigation.

Brian’s research is based on 15 months of ethnographic fieldwork and collaborative community-led research with Charleston flood activist groups.

He received his B.A. in Anthropology and Philosophy from the Honors College at the University of Georgia, and his M.A. in Cultural Anthropology from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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