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New Perspectives on Black Ecology

  • October 13, 2020
  • 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM (EDT)

Rob Gioielli, University of Cincinnati (moderator)

Justin Hosbey, Emory University

Tony Perry, University of Virginia

Allison Puglisi, Harvard University

J.T. Roane, Arizona State University

Teona Williams, Yale University

In the spring of 1970, there were no shortage of critiques of the emerging environmental movement. But sociologist Nathan Hare offered a different perspective in a piece entitled “Black Ecology”: “The emergence of the concept of ecology in American life is potentially of momentous relevance to the ultimate liberation of black people. Yet blacks and their environmental interests have been so blatantly omitted that blacks and the ecology movement currently stand in contradiction to each other.” In the rest of the incisive essay, published in the April 1970 issue of The Black Scholar, the pioneering Black studies journal Hare co-founded a year before, he laid out how ecology matters to Black people, but the emerging definition of environmentalism was too focused on reform and maintaining quality of life for the white middle class, ignoring the environmental issues caused by racism, oppression and inequality, particularly experienced by Black people in America’s central cities. 

In the years since, the continuing rift between African Americans and the dominant, national forms of environmental thought and activism have been so common as to appear intractable. But nevertheless, there has always been an alternative Black ecology, similar to that laid out by Hare, that has been built by the situated historical and material experience of diaspora, enslavement, Jim Crow and continued state oppression, as well as by the radical thought and revolutionary movements that have developed in opposition to that experience. Using the fiftieth anniversary of Hare’s essay as a jumping off point, this roundtable, which emphasizes the analysis of younger scholars from an interdisciplinary perspective, will explore the various means and definitions of Black ecology historically and critically, and especially their salience for constructing a reparative environmental history into the twenty-first century.

The American Society for Environmental History will sponsor a series of webinars around Race and the Environment during Fall 2020. The webinars will capture and expand some of the exciting sessions from the March 2020 meeting that ASEH was forced to cancel to the COVID pandemic. ASEH and its members are eager to engage in this transformative cultural moment by sharing their scholarship and discussing its larger implications.  The 2020 Program Committee and the Committee on Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity are organizing the webinars.  

Sponsored by the Initiative for Environmental Humanities at Brown (EHAB) under the auspices of the Cogut Institute for the Humanities at Brown University.

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