CFP: Environmental Histories of the Black Atlantic World - 2023 Symposium at Dumbarton Oaks - due Sept. 1, 2022

Jane Padelford Discussion
Call for Papers
September 1, 2022
District Of Columbia, United States
Subject Fields: 
African American History / Studies, African History / Studies, Atlantic History / Studies, Environmental History / Studies, Latin American and Caribbean History / Studies

Call for Papers: Dumbarton Oaks Garden and Landscape Studies Symposium in partnership with the Mellon Initiative in Urban Landscape Studies, Washington, DC

Symposiarchs: N. D. B. Connolly (Johns Hopkins University) and Oscar de la Torre (University of North Carolina at Charlotte)

For the last decades, scholars have interrogated the flow of goods, people, ideas, and forms of non-human life that constitute what we call the Atlantic World. Key to the field is the study of the “Black Atlantic,” an understanding of cultural and political connectedness that foregrounds the experiences of African-descended peoples, decenters Europe, and locates in place and time the multiplicity of Black cultures.

Dumbarton Oaks recognizes the richness of the Black Atlantic as an idea and a place. Through a symposium on the landscape histories of the African diaspora, we aim to convene scholars, curators, and other cultural custodians conversant in Black Atlantic histories and committed to reshaping entire fields of study and practice from the Black experience outward.

While African and Afro-descended peoples shaped the history of the Atlantic world since its birth in the fifteenth century, anti-slavery and anti-colonial efforts since that time have flowered into an array of abolitionist movements, practices of Black fugitivity, and a rich library of environmental, feminist, and materialist scholarship. The Black Atlantic has also been reflected and curated in cultural epicenters such as Washington, DC’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, São Paulo’s Museu Afro Brasil (Brazil), Luanda’s Museu Nacional da Escravatura (Angola), Liverpool’s International Slavery Museum (United Kingdom), Matanzas’ Museo Nacional Ruta del Esclavo (Cuba), and Louisiana’s Whitney Plantation. This expanding body of grounded Black Atlantic knowledge challenges and strengthens how we understand, teach, and question histories of and on the land, especially in the context of the Western world and the development of racial capitalism. 

The 2023 symposium will build on our 2019 colloquium on Landscapes of Enslavement and will focus on place-based histories of landscapes, waterscapes, and environments of the Black Atlantic world from the fifteenth through the twentieth century. By engaging the geographic breadth of the Atlantic world and its complex relationships and networks, this symposium seeks to share scholarship on Black landscapes as individual places and as mapped connection sites within larger networks. We remain interested in the places and land imagined and created by Africans and their descendants as they faced the violence of the transatlantic slave trade and, later, segregation and tokenism. We also choose to elevate Atlantic practices of Black resistance and resilience, nation-making, political mobilization, and forms of Black homebuilding and self-regard that showed little concern for white frames of reference.

We are interested in the development of narratives and histories grounded in the environmental humanities, in material studies, and in original, place-based approaches to the study of race and politics. We also seek scholars attuned to the construction and use of places in the making of work lives, community building, and storytelling with the intention of growing the body of works of Black Atlantic environmental histories.

Submission requirements

  • Submit the online form including a 500-word abstract by September 1, 2022.
  • Coauthored submissions are welcome but travel reimbursement and accommodations can only be offered to one author.
  • Invited speakers will be asked to commit to participating in the Garden and Landscape Studies 2023 symposium scheduled for May 12–13, 2023.
Contact Info: 

Jane Padelford

Program Coordinator | Garden and Landscape Studies

Dumbarton Oaks | Trustees for Harvard University

1703 32nd Street, NW

Washington, DC  20007




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