The 2014 Antipode AAG Lecture – 'Zones of Black Death: Institutions, Knowledges, and States of Being' by Rinaldo Walcott

***Video now available***

Join us for session 2626 in Tampa, Florida – Wednesday 9th April from 4:40pm to 6:20pm in Ballroom A, TCC/Tampa Convention Center, First Floor. The lecture will be followed by a drinks reception, thanks to our publisher, Wiley (they will also be filming the lecture and releasing it as part of the Antipode Lecture Series).

The 2014 Antipode AAG Lecture will be presented by Rinaldo Walcott. Entitled, ‘Zones of Black Death: Institutions, Knowledges, and States of Being‘, Rinaldo’s paper will track the ways in which black life persists in the midst of practices, institutions, and knowledges meant to extinguish such life. The paper takes the geographies of the Americas as one zone in which black death is the foundation upon which institutions, modes of being, and other forms of life stake their claims on the world. In other words, the paper suggests that black death is a pre-condition for the common sense and being of contemporary life. The paper reflects on black death by drawing on the scholarship of Sylvia Wynter and a range of black radical thinkers whose intellectual project has been one of mapping the contours of  black resistance to premature death as a mode of remaking what it means to be human.

Antipode‘s Katherine McKittrick will be chairing the session, and here introduces us to Rinaldo and his work…

Rinaldo Walcott is Associate Professor in Humanities, Social Sciences and Social Justice Education, at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto; he also works in the Graduate Programs of the Women and Gender Studies and Cinema Studies Institutes at the University of Toronto. From 2002-2007 Rinaldo held the Canada Research Chair of Social Justice and Cultural Studies.

Black Like WhoRinaldo is the author of Black Like Who? Writing Black Canada (Insonmiac Press, 1997, 2003 [2nd edn]); he is also the editor of Rude: Contemporary Black Canadian Cultural Criticism (Idiomatic, 2000) and co-editor, with Roy Moodley, Counseling Across and Beyond Cultures: Exploring the Work of Clemmont E. Vontress in Clinical Practice (University of Toronto Press, 2010). His forthcoming book, Black Diaspora Faggotry: Readings Frames Limits, will be published by Duke University Press. Rinaldo’s work can also be found in Small Axe, Palimpsest, Canadian Review of American Studies, and Cultural Studies, among other places.

RudeRinaldo’s teaching and research is interdisciplinary and focuses on black diaspora cultural studies and postcolonial studies with an emphasis on questions of sexuality, gender, nation, citizenship and multiculturalism. While Rinaldo’s work attends to a wide range of topics—from music and literatures to pedagogy, race, and representation—the consistent theme across all of his articles, essays and books is how the figure of the human is linked to the racial economy of premature death and black narrative. Working with and extending the research of thinkers such as Stuart Hall, Sylvia Wynter, Edouard Glissant, Audre Lorde, and Jacques Derrida, Rinaldo allows us to think about how the history of plantation slavery, capitalism, and colonialism, together, provided the conditions through which a new figure of humanity emerged.

Counseling...Rinaldo draws attention to how the science of modernity classified and differentiated human bodies according to racial, gendered, and economic markers, yet also, simultaneously, entangled the lives of global subjects. In his work, the heavy weight of classification is noted, yet is reoriented to underscore how the racial project of modernity, and sites of violence such as the middle passage, the plantation, and reserve, produced human intimacies and encounters that undermine the logic of racial differentiation. Within and across these activities, intimacies and encounters, however, are narratives of blackness and black life, and black human subjects, that continue to be identified and sorted through scripts of biological determinism and its attendant racial economies that normalize black dispossession; black subjects continue to be marginalized and, as so many practical human actions reveal, put to death. Rinaldo’s research thinks across these complex and contradictory workings of modernity, race, violence, and location. In paying close attention to the commonsense disposability of black and other marginalized peoples, he opens up how the figure who has never been identified as human at all—‘the black’—is, in fact, implicated in our contemporary attachment to a mode of humanness that can only replicate old classificatory racial scripts yet, at the same time, provides meaningful ways to grasp, and live, what Frantz Fanon called a new humanism.

Virtual issuesRinaldo Walcott_website bannerTo mark the 2014 Antipode AAG Lecture we’re pleased to present a collection of Antipode essays – all of which will be open access for the next 12 months (thanks to the brilliant Rhiannon Rees at Wiley) – speaking to Rinaldo’s research interests…

We start with the symposium, ‘Race, Space, and Nature’. Forthcoming in Antipode 46(5), it’s edited by Rachel Brahinsky (University of San Francisco), Jade Sasser (Loyola Marymount University) and Laura-Anne Minkoff-Zern (Goucher College) and contains some powerful pieces on racialization, intersections with space and nature, and (de)constructions of race:

Julie Guthman’s Doing justice to bodies? Reflections on food justice, race, and biology;

Emily McKee’s Performing rootedness in the Negev/Naqab: Possibilities and perils of competitive planting;

Laura-Anne Minkoff-Zern’s Knowing “good food”: Immigrant knowledge and the racial politics of farmworker food insecurity;

Lindsey Dillon’s Race, waste, and space: Brownfield redevelopment and environmental justice at the Hunters Point Shipyard;

Uli Linke’s Racializing cities, naturalizing space: The seductive appeal of iconicities of dispossession;

Jade Sasser’s From darkness into light: Race, population, and environmental advocacy;

Rachel Brahinksy’s Race and the making of southeast San Francisco: Towards a theory of race-class; and

Carolyn Finney’s Brave new world? Ruminations on race in the twenty-first century.

Next is From Necropolis to Blackpolis: Necropolitical Governance and Black Spatial Praxis in São Paulo, Brazil by Jaime Amparo Alves (2014, Volume 46, Issue 2). Based on ethnographic work on police-linked death squads and with black women’s organizations, this paper analyses urban governance policies and the spatial politics of resistance in Brazil.

“The Old Man is Dead”: Hip Hop and the Arts of Citizenship of Senegalese Youth by Rosalind Fredericks (2014, Volume 46, Issue 1) examines the 2012 Senegalese presidential elections and the young, urban movement that played a role in the incumbent’s defeat through voter registration, public critique, and mass mobilization. It’s a great analysis of hip hop as both a ‘medium of political identity formation’ and a ‘language of resistance’.

Hilda Kurtz’s Trayvon Martin and the Dystopian Turn in U.S. Self-defense Doctrine (2013, Volume 45, Issue 2) considers self-defence doctrine, racialised law enforcement, ghettoization, gated communities, and spaces of the home (read: ‘castle’) in the wake of the killing in Florida of 17 year old Trayvon Martin, an un-armed black teenager. See also Hilda’s moving poem, ‘Stand our ground‘.

Neoliberalizing Race, Racing Neoliberalism: Placing “Race” in Neoliberal Discourses by David Roberts and Minelle Mahtani (2010, Volume 42, Issue 2) is a contribution to the ways in which neoliberalism and race are currently conceptualised in geography. Rather than thinking about these concepts as two separate entities, David and Minelle insist on examining their co-constitutive qualities.

Race, Protest, and Public Space: Contextualizing Lefebvre in the U.S. City by Eugene McCann (1999, Volume 31, Issue 2) argues that care must be taken in transporting Lefbevre’s theoretical framework between contexts: when applied in U.S. cities, sociospatial processes such as race must be taken into account. McCann emphasises the role of the body in Lefebvre’s understanding of space, and suggests that ‘the right to the city’ and ‘the right to difference’ together hold out hope for the grassroots development of antiracist urban public spaces.

Laura Pulido’s A Critical Review of the Methodology of Environmental Racism Research (1996, Volume 28, Issue 2) is a seminal piece, examining two key questions – is race or class responsible for discriminatory patterns? and, which came first, the people or the hazard? – and challenging the implicit assumptions concerning racism within much research on environmental racism.

Structural Imperatives Behind Racial Change in Birmingham, Alabama by Bobby Wilson (1992, Volume 24, Issue 3) – another classic – discusses the social construction of race for the industrial, Fordist and post-Fordist phases of U.S. capitalist development, anatomising what Wilson calls ‘the southern road to capitalism’ and the unprecedented entry of people of colour into capital-labour relations.

The ‘Detroit Geographical Expedition and Institute’ Experience by Ronald Horvath (1971, Volume 3, Issue 1) is a remarkable reflection on the DGEI, which – as everyone knows?! – was a germinal ‘programme of community research and education for [and, we’d say, “with”] the black residents of Detroit’ in the 1960s and 1970s. Inspiring stuff indeed.

Fred Donaldson’s Geography and the Black American (1969, Volume 1, Issue 1) closes this virtual issue. Antipode‘s inaugural number contained so much passion, and it’s well worth returning to it now and again, thinking about progress made and the road in front of us: ‘Profound social problems in America seem to have eluded most geographers…Concerning its treatment of the Black American, the nature of geography is misinformation or no information at all…[T]he field of geography has contributed to the maintenance of White supremacy over Afro-Americans…’.