In recent debates about climate change, a transmission model of ecological inheritance has apportioned responsibility for ecological damage to generations portrayed as locked in conflict, while depicting Earth as a worldly possession capable of being assigned to a set of heirs. With a focus on North America, this article examines assumptions about ownership, possession, dispositional authority, and succession embedded in the trope of bequeathing an ecologically compromised world to a receiving generation that worries it might be the last. Many of these assumptions create exclusions for those who already apprehend themselves as dispossessed. Indigenous conceptions of responsibility, temporality, and place suggest ways to begin to decolonise the rhetoric of ecological inheritance, allowing humans to inhabit the everyday under signs other than extinction, regardless of how things turn out.
Ecological Inheritance, Generational Conflict, and Dispossession
Arid Landscapes and Ecologies of Encounter across the African Diaspora
In the poem “ca’line’s prayer,” Lucille Clift on marks the progression of Black generational memory through the metaphor of drought. The poem’s 1969 publication coincided with one of the worst droughts in modern history. Across the West African Sahel late rains and the onset of famine led to widespread death and displacement. Starting from this conjunctural moment in the late 1960s and using Clifton’s provocation about the “Blackness” of drought, this article contemplates representations of arid environments in African and Afro-diasporic texts. I consider various imaginings of arid spaces, presented simultaneously as wasteland and homeland. Surveying critical scholarship on the Sahelian drought, I interrogate the contested meanings of Black life and death in deserts. I also consider the contemporary resonances of these themes, engaging African eco-critical and Afro/African futurists texts. I show how these portrayals of actual and imagined deserts reveal alternate modes of encounter forged through Black/African ecological thought.
Alex A. Moulton and Inge Salo
Black geographies and Black ecologies are epistemological frameworks that attend to the ideological, philosophical, and material portent of Black movements in dialectical, but not deterministic, relationships with the geographies and environments of Black life and struggle. This article reviews the Black geographies and Black ecologies literature, showing the convergence of these bodies of scholarship around themes of racial, spatial, and ecological justice. The thematic, methodological, and analytical overlaps between Black geographies and Black ecologies are quite apropos for understanding the current realities faced by Black racial-spatial-ecological justice movements; for clarifying the geographies, histories, and ecologies of Black transformation, flourishing, and everyday resistance; and for explicating how global environmental crises are rooted in racial capitalism and regimes of racialization (a sociopolitical crisis).
Dryland Farming in the Arid Black Pacific, 1890–1930
Maya L. Shamsid-Deen and Jayson M. Porter
Dry farming, or techniques of cultivating crops in regions with domineering dry seasons, was central to Black agricultural life across the Black diaspora, but especially in the Black Pacific. Ecologically, the Black diaspora transformed semi-arid ecosystems in both the Atlantic and Pacific. However, there is a dearth of Black narratives that draw on the ecological and botanical relationships held with the land. Through a collaborative botanical and historical approach that blends historical ecology and botany, we evaluate how Black placemaking occurred despite arid climatic stressors and as a result of ecological and cultural knowledge systems. Highlighting Black agricultural life in Costa Chica, Mexico and Blackdom, New Mexico, we argue that people and plants made cimarronaje (or collective and situated Black placemaking) possible in the Western coasts and deserts of Mexico and New Mexico through botanical knowledge systems of retaining water and cultivating a life in water-scarce environments.
Amani C. Morrison
Affordance theory, originating in ecological psychology but adopted by the field of design studies, refers to possibilities for action that a subject perceives in an environment. I posit Black spatial affordance, critically employing affordances with an eye toward Black ecological and geographical practices, and I apply it to the Great Migration residential landscape and literature. Grounded in racial capitalist critique, Black geographic thought, and cultural critique at the intersections of race, place, and performance, Black spatial affordance works as an analytic to engage Black quotidian practice in racially circumscribed and delineated places and spaces. Operating at multiple scales, Black spatial affordance engages the specificity of places structured by racism to analyze the micro-level spatial negotiations Black subjects devise and employ in recognition of the terrain through which they move or are emplaced. Employing Black spatial affordance enables critical inquiry into the spatial navigation of subjects who occupy marginal positions in society.
Rune Steenberg and Raphael Deberdt
Darren Byler, Terror Capitalism: Uyghur Dispossession and Masculinity in a Chinese City. Durham, NC: Duke University, pp. 269, 2022.
Jamon Alex Halvaksz, Gardens of Gold: Place-Making in Papua New Guinea. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, pp. 224, 2020.
Adwaita Banerjee, Emma Banks, Julie Brugger, Maya Daurio, Florence Durney, Wendi A. Haugh, Lisa Hiwasaki, David M. Hoffman, Raka Sen, David Stentiford, and Weronika Tomczyk
Stoekl, Allan. 2021. The Three Sustainabilities: Energy, Economy, Time. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. 307 pp. ISBN 978-1517908188.
Carrasco, Anita. 2020. Embracing the Anaconda: A Chronicle of Atacameño Life and Mining in the Andes. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. 182 pp. ISBN 978-1498575157.
Sullivan, Kathleen M., and James H. McDonald, eds. 2020. Public Lands in the Western US: Place and Politics in the Clash between Public and Private. 226 pp. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. ISBN 978-1793637062.
Hirsch, Shana Lee. 2020. Anticipating Future Environments: Climate Change, Adaptive Restoration, and the Columbia River Basin. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press. 232 pp. ISBN 978-0295747293.
O’Gorman, Emily. 2021. Wetlands in a Dry Land: More-Than-Human-Histories of the Murray–Darling Basin. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press. 288 pp. ISBN 978-0-295-74915-0.
Styles, Megan. 2019. Roses from Kenya: Labor, Environment, and the Global Trade in Cut Flowers. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press. 232 pp. ISBN 978-0-295-74650-0.
Boyce, James K. 2019. The Case for Carbon Dividends. Medford, MA: Polity Press. 140 pp. ISBN 978-1-5095-2655-0.
Rahder, Micha. 2020. An Ecology of Knowledges: Fear, Love, and Technoscience in Guatemalan Conservation. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 316 pp. ISBN 978-1-4780-0691-6.
Lewis, Simon L., and Mark A. Maslin. 2018. The Human Planet: How We Created the Anthropocene. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 496 pp. ISBN 978-0-241-28088-1.
Braverman, Irus, and Elizabeth R. Johnson, eds. 2020. Blue Legalities: The Life & Laws of the Sea. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 342 pp. ISBN 978-1-4780-0654-1.
Chaney, Robert. 2020. The Grizzly in the Driveway: The Return of Bears to a Crowded American West. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press. 288 pp. ISBN 978-0-295-74793-4.
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.
Emerging Materialism in Shuar Evangelicals’ Healing Practices
The project of ontological anthropology expounded by Philippe Descola has unexplored merits for a critical and secular anthropology of Christian conversion in indigenous societies. Drawing on Shuar descriptions of their healing practice in a context of medical pluralism in southeast Ecuador, this article argues that for animist peoples, Protestant Evangelicalism constitutes a step toward philosophical materialism or ‘naturalism’. While Shuar healing reserves a central place for hallucinogenic plant-induced visions for personal empowerment and shamanic healing, Shuar Evangelicals express a preference for engaging only the material qualities of medicinal plants. This is not, however, the consequence of adopting a disenchanted material cosmology but of a submissive mode of relating to the immaterial aspects of reality normally engaged in ancestral Shuar ontology. The article thereby extends the ontological turn’s emphasis on what is known to a consideration of modes of relation to ontological content.
Bureaucratic and Affective Encounters between Primary School Teachers and Their ‘Chiefs’ in Postcolonial Benin
This article aims at investigating how fear shapes everyday interactions between teachers and their ‘chiefs’ (primary school inspectors and pedagogical advisers) in Benin. Drawing on a fifteen-month ethnography in two school districts of the country, the article largely focuses on class visits and inspections, considered as critical events for the study of ‘fear at work’. These moments constitute contexts for immediate encounters between hierarchical authority and teachers and have been the subject of multiple transformations and normative recodifications partly led by international actors, particularly requiring important emotional work from the chiefs. Through a look back at the history of relations between teachers and their chiefs since independence, I suggest that fear works as an operating tool, enabling us to investigate notions of legitimacy and authority through which the state is spoken and performed.