Our inquiry here is routed through three physical sites: an aqueduct in New York, a cotton mill in Alabama, and a housing project in Los Angeles. At first glance, the investigation is excavative, digging to reveal the buried artifacts left beneath modernist growth and postindustrial decay, as well as the progressive and regressive historical and political narratives that underwrite these processes. Indeed, following Michel de Certeau's walking tour (Th e Practice of Everyday Life, 1984), our attention is not on the monumental, but on the ruined. Each of these sites has been built or written over and requires digging—literal, historical, critical—to unearth forgotten structures of feeling, of concrete. As such, the scholars whose work appears in this section tell stories about the traces left in the palimpsest that is industrial capitalism. Yet, as we unearth these artifacts, what as often comes to light is that the very act of excavation buries yet other artifacts. Th is inquiry, then, is as much about how things are brought to light, made visible, how the very act of inquiry, of excavation, can be just as much one of entrenchment. Sunny [End Page 113] Stalter shows us how a promotional film for a now-abandoned cotton mill rendered certain processes of industrial capitalism hypervisible, yet elided others, but how the cinematic traces of Half Century with Cotton can be mined for further glimpses. Looking at the visual history of development and renewal in a Los Angeles neighborhood, Susan Briante exhibits how images of abandonment and domesticity tell vastly diff erent stories. Finally, Anthony Fassi reveals that even as contemporary urban explorers disclose spaces left behind in narratives of industrial progress, this alternative spatial practice and poetics reconstructs its own picturesque. [End Page 114]
Jeremy Dean is a doctoral candidate at the University of Texas at Austin. His research interests lie in the relations among race, space, and power in U.S. culture. He is currently completing a dissertation entitled "MultipliCities: The Infrastructure of African American Literature, 1899-1996." He is the former editor of The E3W Review of Books.