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Climates of Antiblackness

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Organizer: Nicholas Brady

Co-Organizer: John Murillo III

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In her groundbreaking text In The Wake, Christina Sharpe describes antiblackness as a phenomenon that is “pervasive as climate.” Her emphasis on weather and climate reconceptualizes antiblackness as something larger than either event or structure. Instead, it is the very state of being that connects all life to the captivity of -- and wanton violence against --Black flesh. In the Wake points us to the unthought position that blackness plays in our theories of the anthropocene and “man-made” climate change. As the settler-lit flames continue to rage in the Amazon, what little media coverage is given to this emergency has even less to say about how these fires are affecting the Quilombos across the region. Structural violence exposes Black bodies to violence and controls access to clean air, water, food, and stable housing. From hurricanes striking the Caribbean and coastal US to the effects of soil erosion in South America, we see that it is not the disaster itself that is the matter, but the socio-economic infrastructure that decides that those deemed human will be protected and Black flesh will remain vulnerable to both quick and slow deaths. Sharpe’s concept highlights how both the infrastructure-caused wreckage of Hurricane Katrina and the poisoning of the water in Flint, Michigan are representative of a larger, climatic political-ontology of antiblack violence. Antiblackness distends the bounds of our vocabulary for dealing with climate in order to make space and time to consider the unthought and unbearable.

With this in mind, this seminar aims to meet the stakes laid out by Sharpe to think of “antiblackness as total climate.” Dating back to at least the 1970 publication of Nathan Hare’s “Black Ecology” in The Black Scholar, Black Studies has persistently put pressure on the discourse of the “anthropocene” that attributes universal blame for climate change to all humans across the planet. Kristin Simmons builds on this argument in “Settler Atmospherics,” analyzing the short- and long-term environmental impact of police and para-military organizations using different poisonous gases on Black organizers in Ferguson, Missouri. Kristie Dotson and Kyle Whyte (2013) use a Black feminist lens to critique how contemporary environmental politics obscures and renders unthinkable how environmental anti-blackness impacts black women. This seminar will continue this tradition by thinking through events, aesthetic productions, and concepts that are treated as unthought and unbearable by typical ecological analysis. We will think, write, and discuss in orbit of the question Sharpe arrives at in In the Wake: “What must we know in order to move through these environments in which the push is always toward Black death?"


With this in mind we invite papers from many different disciplines that think broadly about the relationship between Blackness and the environment. 

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