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Open access

Caste, Environment Justice, and Intersectionality of Dalit–Black Ecologies

Mukul Sharma


Caste and race, Dalits and Black people, and the common ground between them have been analyzed in many areas, but their conjunction in the environmental field has been neglected. This article locates Dalit ecologies by examining the close connection between caste and nature. Drawing from a plural framework of environmental justice and histories of environmental struggles among African Americans, it focuses on historical and contemporary ecological struggles of Dalits. It contemplates how their initial articulations under the rubric of civil rights developed into significant struggles over issues of Dalit access, ownership, rights, and partnership regarding natural resources, where themes of environmental and social justice appeared at the forefront. The intersections between Dalit and Black ecologies, the rich legacies of Black Panthers and Dalit Panthers, and their overlaps in environmental struggles open for us a new historical archive, where Dalit and Black power can talk to each other in the environmental present.

Open access

A Flowering of Memory

Walking Zora Neale Hurston's Cemetery Path to our Mothers’ Gardens

James Jr. Padilioni


In June 1945, Zora Neale Hurston wrote to W. E. B. Du Bois to propose a plan to create a Black cemetery to house the remains of famous Black Americans in Florida. Hurston suggested Florida because the state's climate guaranteed the cemetery would be verdant year-round, and she included a landscaping plan of the flowers and trees she desired to furnish her memorial garden. As an initiate of New Orleans Hoodoo-Vodou, Hurston's ontology of spirit allowed for the presence of the ancestors to indwell the living form of flowers, trees, and other topographical features of the land. I contextualize Hurston's cemetery within an extended genealogy of Black necrogeography and the study of Black American deathscapes, examining the entangled relationship of Black gardening and Black burial practices as engendering a distinct ecology of root-working in which Black women gardeners propagate new forms of life in the very dust of our decomposition.

Free access


Global Black Ecologies

Justin Hosbey, Hilda Lloréns, and J. T. Roane

This collection derives from an ongoing experiment in thinking through and with the potential epistemic insurgency presented by our loose collective's working terminology, “Black ecologies.” This term moves from the resonances between the editors’ own research in New Orleans, Puerto Rico, and Virginia, respectively. Each of us considers from our different vantages the ecological consequences of slavery and its afterlives in the enduring regime of extractivism and disposability shaping Black communities in the Diaspora. This resonance has inspired us to collaborate in various formations, including a virtual dialogue about the environment for the People's Strike organization in July 2021, the Black Ecologies series at Black Perspectives, the virtual gathering hosted by the Black Ecologies Initiative at Arizona State University in Spring 2022, “Making Livable Worlds” (following co-editor Hilda Lloréns’ monograph title), and a zine publication, which have together added further integrity, meaning, and possibilities for thinking with this formulation outside a restrictive or proprietary vision for its potential.

Open access

Remote-Control Plantations and Black Forest Relations in the Black Belt

Danielle M. Purifoy


This article examines the contemporary timber industry as a reproduction of plantation power via remote control, which occurs through absentee landowners, Black family land grabs, new markets for energy, and legal regimes designed to “devalue” common property in favor of individual ownership and profit-seeking productivity. Multi-generation Black homeplaces and communities possess alternative modes of land relations to sustain themselves despite the friction between the economic interests forced by racial capitalism and the ecological interests arising from long-standing forest interdependence. With the Alabama Black Belt and the larger US South experiencing expansion of concentrated forestland ownership and local divestment, most recently through the rise of the biomass industry, the reciprocal traditions of Black forest traditions represent modes of land relation and intervention that are necessary for livable futures.

Open access

Towards Dalit Ecologies

Indulata Prasad


The caste system has implications for the environmental experiences of Dalits (formerly “untouchables”). Dalits are disproportionately impacted by natural disasters and climate change because of their high dependence on natural resources and manual labor, including agriculture. Dalit viewpoints and ecological expertise nevertheless remain missing from the environmental literature and mainstream activism. Aligning with Black ecologies as a challenge to eco-racism, I use the term “Dalit ecologies” to conceptualize Dalit articulations with their environment and experiences of eco-casteism involving inequities such as their exclusions from natural resources and high vulnerability to pollution and waste. My analysis of scholarly literature finds that nature is caste-ized through the ideology of Hindu Brahminism that animates mainstream environmental activism in India. Dalit subjectivities and agency nevertheless remain evident in their literary and oral narratives and ongoing struggles for access to land, water, and other environmental resources.

Open access

We All We Got

Urban Black Ecologies of Care and Mutual Aid

Ashanté M. Reese and Symone A. Johnson


Urban ecologies are fraught with inequities, often resulting in humanitarian or charity solutions that emphasize lack rather than communities’ self-determination. While these inequities have been widely documented, the COVID-19 pandemic further reveals how these crises are not the sum result of individual failures. Rather, they are systemically produced through policies that harm people. How do Black urban residents contend with the sociohistorical antagonisms between feelings of scarcity (e.g., food and housing insecurity, underemployment, and financial strain) and aspirations for abundance? Using ethnographic encounters in Chicago and Austin we consider how practices of mutual aid are meaningful both spatially and affectively. First, we explore how mutual aid transforms “decaying” urban spaces to meet residents’ needs. Second, we explore felt experiences of mutuality in social relationships as distinct from authoritarian, charity-based relationality. Thinking these spatial and affective dimensions collectively, we work toward a framework of Black ecologies of care and mutual aid.

Open access

Addressing Serious Harm, Reconsidering Policy and Building Towards Repair

Rine Vieth

This commentary draws on personal experiences, my time spent discussing acts of harm in the academy with activists, and a review of various incidences on issues of academic harm and responsibility. Over the last few years, I have observed numerous high-profile cases in anthropology – in various countries and various contexts – that have elicited a significant public response. Some frame this kind of harm as the proverbial ‘few bad apples’, an approach I reject as it ignores what enables harm. Alternatively, some attempt to use the idea of ‘academic freedom’ as a way to sidestep questions of interpersonal obligations. Recently, I have encountered this line of argument in defences made by some against allegations about John Comaroff, such as media pieces that I note have been later cross-posted to his own website (Comaroff 2022; Walsh 2022). Instead of settling into a debate about what is or is not ‘academic freedom’, I here highlight a different reorientation, a shift in framing: what I have called, in conversations with friends and collaborators, ‘academic responsibility’. This reminds us that whereas academic freedom is frequently framed as a freedom to or a freedom from, academic responsibility emphasises our responsibilities as scholars and the obligations which follow to others. This includes a refusal of what Zoe Todd (2019) calls a ‘failure of imagination’ – we can and must envision different ways of building scholarly spaces beyond what we ourselves have seen or experienced in the academy.

Open access

Between Intention and Implementation

Recent Legal Reforms on Child Marriage in Contemporary Malaysia

Nurul Huda Mohd. Razif


In 2018, news of a 41-year-old Malay man's marriage to a Thai girl of 11 as his third wife broke out in the Malaysian media, catalysing nationwide concerns on the state of affairs of child marriage in Malaysia. This article analyses the news reports on this child marriage scandal and draws on my own long-term ethnographic fieldwork studying marriage and intimacy in the state of Kelantan to examine the ensuing public and religious debates concerning the amendment of Malaysia's Islamic family law enactments. I demonstrate that state- and federal-level efforts at curbing child marriage have failed largely due to the lack of consensus amongst the religious and political elite, as well as members of the Muslim community, on what the purpose of marriage is, who – and whose interests – it is meant to protect, and what measures should be implemented to prevent its abuse. Furthermore, child marriage in Malaysia has been ideologically sustained by a rhetoric of ‘masculinist protectionism’ in which men justify their marriage to young girls as an act of care and benevolence to mask a reality of coercion and violence. However, legal reform on child marriage will not only be ineffectual but also inadequate if it is not enforced in tandem with other initiatives such as seeking poverty eradication in rural regions; looking at the feasibility of contracting eloped marriages in Southern Thailand; and carefully reconsidering Malay adat and Islamic norms promoting young and early marriage as alternatives to prolonged periods of courtship.

Open access

Case Study

The ‘Deep Believer’ 30 Years On, 1926–2008

Reinhold L. Loeffler

In my book Islam in Practice (1988), I showed the great variety of religious beliefs in Sisakht, a village of Luri-speaking tribal people in the province of Kohgiluye/Boir Ahmad in Iran. I gave one of the 21 men I presented, Mr. Husseinkhan Sayadi, the epithet ‘Deep Believer’ to reflect his firm belief in God and Shi'a traditions. We became close friends, and revisiting his life again 14 years after his death, I will continue to use his first name to reflect and honour our friendship.

Restricted access

A Contemplative Approach in the Framework of Environmental Education

The Potential of Mindfulness

Irida Tsevreni


This article investigates the potential of contemplative learning through mindfulness in the framework of environmental education. Human alienation from the rest of nature and the separation from the more-than-human others are approached under the lens of eco-phenomenology. Fifty undergraduate students at a Pedagogical Department experienced mindfulness techniques in natural places and reflected on their experiences. The research results revealed that mindfulness contributed to the sensorial and embodied experience of nature as well as to their interaction and participation in the more-than-human world. However, difficulties and challenges also emerged. Contemplative environmental learning could contribute to the healing of human alienation from the rest of nature and the establishment of an embodied, sensorial empathy for all living creatures.