Throughout 2020 and 2021, bells have rung in a variety of COVID-related rituals in the West, ranging from large-scale religious and civic rites, to ad hoc neighborhood and hospital initiatives, to anti-racist memorials that simultaneously spoke to the health crisis at hand. Taking stock of how these COVID bell-ringing rituals were formalized, their structures and actions, and the historical precedents from which they drew their meanings, this article investigates what the sounds of bells and the rituals of bell-ringing communicated about COVID, how they shaped our personal and collective experiences of the crisis, and what functions they were expected to serve during this liminal period. It reveals how, owing to the historical polysemy of bells on the one hand and the social uncertainties of living with COVID on the other, those rituals generated vivid symbolisms and mobilized powerful emotions that sometimes brought about unintended consequences.
Campanology under COVID-19
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.
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.
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.
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.
Intersections between Indigenous Peoples’ Dispossession and Asylum Seekers’ Containment by Australia
Australia’s harsh policy response to asylum seekers appears to be an extreme measure for a country that thinks of itself as a liberal democracy. Confining analyses of this regime to refugee law and policy overlooks the ways that Australia’s colonial history, Indigenous dispossession, and contemporary race relations interact with one another. Th is article argues that these historical dynamics are essential to understanding the Australian government’s response to asylum seekers in the present day, with asylum-seekers and Indigenous peoples in Australia both being utilized as tools of modern statecraft to shore up the legitimacy of the Australian state. Attention is drawn to parallels between the treatment of both Indigenous peoples and asylum seekers by the Australian government, with the increasingly harsh response to asylum seekers in Australian politics coinciding with the expansion of land rights for Indigenous Australians.