Expanding Black and Indigenous Ecologies: CFP for English Language Notes

Bonnie Etherington's picture

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Call for Papers
Subject Fields: 
Black History / Studies, Environmental History / Studies, Indigenous Studies, Literature, Race / Ethnic Studies

This proposed special issue navigates the intersections of Black and Indigenous ecologies. Ecologies encompass natural and constructed environments, understories, and overstories that allow renewed attention to notions of mobility, modernity, protest, climate change, human and nonhuman relationality, and more. Ecologies shape and are shaped by macro as well as micro units of the community, the nation-state, and the global. Ecologies are also fundamental to the ways we approach and understand historical, social, political, and economic relationships around the world. However, colonial epistemologies still marginalize Black and Indigenous peoples in discussions about ecologies: they neglect Black and Indigenous peoples’ disproportionate environmental dispossession and the effects of environmental racism while simultaneously “naturalizing” Black and Indigenous people as closer to the natural environment. Work on race and ecology in the United States, such as through Black feminist ecocriticism, and postcolonial critiques of imperialist environmental devastation, have generated a broad range of conversations about ecologies and their relationships to Black and Indigenous communities. But there are also numerous gaps in these conversations, at local and global scales.

Too often relationships between Black and Indigenous ecologies are solely read through reactive or deficit lenses, or primarily in terms of forced colonial and capitalist relations. Geographically, these conversations are also often limited. For example, I-Kiribati and African American scholar Teresia Teaiwa has explained that “apart from a few acclaimed writers like Ngugi Wa Thiong'o and a handful of other scholars, the Pacific has been ignored by African and Afro-Diasporic artists and scholars” (and vice versa) (145). At the same time, the Indigenous Pacific has its own histories of Blackness, of racism and racialization, that have particular ecological ramifications. Authors such as Terisa Siagatonu and Craig Santos Perez, as well as Teaiwa, have called for Pacific Islanders to acknowledge the anti-black racism prevalent in Indigenous Pacific communities and how it affects ecologies, while Melanesian Pacific Islanders invoke shared anticolonial activism histories with African diasporas to advocate for liberation from exploitation that they specifically represent as bound up in the environmental. The ways that recent “Black Lives Matter” protests against police brutality have been taken up by Indigenous and Black activists around the world remind us that calls for racial and Indigenous justice are not disconnected from each other. They highlight the intersections of racist and environmental violence and offer opportunities to make visible convergences between antiblack, anti-Indigenous policies (including health and land policies) that directly impact ecologies in the US, West Papua, South Africa, Nigeria, Australia, New Zealand, and beyond.

This special issue draws on these convergences between global Black and Indigenous calls for justice to contribute to ongoing conversations and generate new perspectives about the entanglements between ecologies and environmental inequality in Black and Indigenous contexts. We are particularly interested in foregrounding writing that generates new ways of thinking about the relationships between ecologies, Indigeneity, and Blackness. This issue aims to trace historical as well as contemporary relationships, and attend to the linkages and disruptions at work in Black and Indigenous ecologies, especially in the midst of climate change which continues to affect those who are least responsible for the planet’s degradation. Our proposed issue differs from previous issues of English Language Notes that foreground Indigenous hemispheric narratives, or that traverse other new environmental humanities trajectories, by specifically centering environmental humanities discussions that prioritize reading Black and Indigenous frames of references together.

We seek writing which makes visible entwined liberational histories in Black and Indigenous ecologies, as well as histories of oppression, that may trouble territorial boundaries and expand concepts of relationship. We wish to prioritize writing that decenters the US in conversations about Black and Indigenous relationality. Our global lens does not mean that we do not welcome essays that are predominantly focused on the US, but this special issue deliberately offers space for scholars to engage in conversations that go beyond US geographic contexts. In this way, we aim to put texts, peoples, and perspectives in dialogue with each other through frameworks that highlight more expansive entanglements of Black and Indigenous ecologies.

This special issue invites topics that range from, but are not limited to, these questions:

  • How have worldwide protests against racial injustice and state violence generated new discursive frames or instilled new energy into the study of Black and Indigenous ecologies?
  • What does bringing such studies together illuminate about environmental racism and extractive violence in Black and Indigenous contexts?
  • How might attending to Black-Indigenous relationality change representations of and approaches to climate change and other forms of ecological precarity and destruction?
  • What do convergences of Black and Indigenous detention/ incarceration with racist and colonial health/ land/ labor policies reveal?
  • In what ways would historicizing African ecologies as fundamental to a global comparative Indigenous studies challenge the marginalization of Africa from studies of Indigeneity and Blackness?
  • In what ways do Pacific Islanders’ shared anticolonial activism histories with African diasporas, on the one hand, and calls to acknowledge anti-black racism prevalent in Indigenous Pacific communities on the other, illustrate the problems and possibilities of thinking about Indigeneity with Blackness?
  • What approaches become visible when mobility and migration are recalibrated through urban ecologies and the role of constructed environments in the movement of people, animals, things, and viruses across different historical periods?
  • What other questions of Indigenous and Black mobilities can an ecological focus allow us to examine?
  • What futures, utopian or dystopian, does Black and Indigenous environmentalism make possible?

The editors are open to standard-length (7000-8000) single-authored articles, but also welcome other submissions related to the issue’s theme, including collaboratively created roundtable-style or dialogue pieces, interviews, book reviews, and shorter hybrid creative-critical interventions. Please send abstracts/ proposals (up to 250 words) to F. Delali Kumavie (fkumavie@syr.edu) and Bonnie Etherington (Bonnie.Etherington@vuw.ac.nz) by June 15, 2022. Full submissions will be due September 15, 2022.


Contact Info: 

Bonnie Etherington

Lecturer in Literary and Creative Communication, Te Herenga Waka– Victoria University of Wellington

New Zealand

Categories: Announcement
Keywords: CFP