James T. Roane

  • Fellowship year:2015-2016
  • University: Columbia University
  • Dissertation Topic/Category: United States
  • Dissertation Title: Sovereignty in the City
  • In "Sovereignty in the City," I combine methods from social history, religious studies, kinship/ family studies, and black queer criticism to historicize Philadelphia's contemporary landscape, which is riven by a profound ethical contest between two visions of social affiliation and obligation. First, I investigate the overlapping literatures and archives that the Planning Commission, housing reformers, and public health officials produced in order to map the future of the city. I attend to the specific question of the place of black families to illuminate the continuity in an interpretation of black social units as inherently devaluing. Herein, I historicize the distinctive pattern of HIV's development in Philadelphia as part of a function of segregation and displacement, which these future projections helped orchestrate from the Negro Migrant Study in 1924 until 1984, when HIV was first recognized as a problem in the city. Next, I locate the emergence of harm reduction and needle exchange as a response to HIV and the underlying social and economic conditions that produced it, through an intergenerational biography of Jon Paul Hammond, I locate Hammond in a longer trajectory of working class black migrant communities' efforts to imagine and enact alterative urban sociality. He drew on a longer history of black working class otherworldliness; thus, his critical intervention must be situated not simply as a product of post-Stonewall gay politics.