On March 26, 2018, Jennifer Hart drove her SUV off a cliff along the northern coast of California with her partner and at least five of their transracially adopted Black children inside. Their remains were recovered at the crash site. As of this writing, a sixth child, Devonte, remains missing and is presumed dead. Four years before the crash, Devonte was famously photographed at the age of twelve, tearfully hugging a white police officer at a Ferguson rally in Portland, Oregon. By simultaneously occupying the feel-good spectacle of interracial intimacy and the everyday tragedy of interracial violence, Devonte embodies and embodied the conditions of contemporary Black life and death in the United States. His disappearance is intimately linked to other forms and histories of American state violence. Through cultural analysis, autoethnography, and poetic intervention, this essay performs wake work as a method for living with the unmournable.
American Elegy: A Triptych
Kathryn A. Mariner is the Wilmot Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Visual and Cultural Studies at the University of Rochester. Her book, Contingent Kinship: The Flows and Futures of Adoption in the United States (2019), explores the visual, temporal, economic, and affective politics of transracial adoption. Her work also appears in Ethnos (2018), Cultural Anthropology (2019), and American Anthropologist (2019). She is currently researching urban hypersegregation in Rochester, New York.
Kathryn A. Mariner; American Elegy: A Triptych. Public Culture 1 January 2020; 32 (1): 5–23. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/08992363-7816269
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