The 2021 Antipode AAG Lecture – “Dear April: The Aesthetics of Black Miscellanea” by Katherine McKittrick

The 2021 Antipode American Association of Geographers Lecture took place (virtually!) on Thursday 8th April between 3:05pm and 4:20pm PDT.

You can watch a recording of it, and read about Katherine and her work, below. To download the (open access) peer-reviewed, published version, click here.

This presentation will attend to black methodologies, paying specific attention to the practice of textual accumulation (the gathering and gluing together of various creative, sonic, and intellectual items and narratives). The conversation is especially interested in thinking about how the aesthetics of black miscellanea, and the engagement with overlapping and conflicting texts that are affixed, uncovers moments or slivers of clarity that complicate typical conceptualizations of opacity. The moments of clarity unravel as lessons, cautionary tales, and secrets, with the aesthetics of black miscellanea signalling an experiment in, and the potential politics of, dynamic collaboration. The creative work of Frank Ocean (“Dear April”) and Krista Franklin (Under the Knife) will inform the presentation.

Katherine McKittrick is Professor of Gender Studies at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. After earning a PhD at York University, working with Linda Peake, Katherine joined Queen’s in 2005. Her work since, on theories of liberation, Black studies, and cultural production, has been hugely influential. I might well be in a unique position, having read every paper published in Antipode over the last decade, and for what it’s worth I can attest to its standing. Katherine’s numerous essays published in journals including The Black Scholar, Social and Cultural Geography, Small Axe, and cultural geographies, her first monograph, Demonic Grounds: Black Women and the Cartographies of Struggle (University of Minnesota Press, 2006), and her edited collections, Black Geographies and the Politics of Place (with the late Clyde Woods; Between the Lines, 2007) and Sylvia Wynter: On Being Human as Praxis (Duke University Press, 2015), are comfortably among the most cited works in the journal. And these citations mean something. Katherine’s scholarship is unapologetically activist, as recognised by the American Association of Geographers in 2019 with the Harold M. Rose Award for Anti-Racism Research and Practice for advancing the discipline and impacting on anti-racist practice. Black geographies is arguably one of the most vital (in both senses of the word) areas of our discipline, and Katherine’s work has been foundational.

But Katherine’s influence cannot be measured in citations alone. She was the inaugural recipient of the Ban Righ Foundation Mentorship Award in 2016, which recognised the outstanding work she does supporting students at Queen’s University and beyond, and in 2018 Katherine received the AAG Geographic Perspectives on Women Specialty Group’s Jan Monk Service Award for her outstanding service contribution to women in geography and feminist geography. I was lucky enough to work with Katherine when she edited Antipode from 2013 to 2019, witnessing daily this dedication and generosity to the scholarship of others – something which continues today as Katherine (now a Trustee of the Antipode Foundation) works with recipients of the Clyde Woods Black Geographies Specialty Group Graduate Student Paper Award to prepare their work for publication. In 2017, the Royal Society of Canada elected Katherine to the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists, which recognises “the emerging generation of Canadian intellectual leadership”, and in 2020 the American Academy of Arts and Sciences inducted her as an International Honorary Member, a “world leader in the arts and sciences”. And for proof positive that these honours were more than deserved, one needs to only look at Katherine’s latest monograph, Dear Science and Other Stories (Duke University Press, 2021).

Dear Science is a singular achievement, bringing together insights developed in Demonic Grounds, Black Geographies, and Sylvia Wynter, and essays like “Mathematics Black Life”, “On Plantations, Prisons, and a Black Sense of Place”, “Plantation Futures”, “Rebellion/Invention/Groove”, and “Diachronic Loops/Deadweight Tonnage/Bad Made Measure”, and taking them forward to break new ground not just for Black geographies, but for critical geography and Black studies more broadly. The book is a creative, radically interdisciplinary meditation on Black methodologies and the inventive, collaborative, and, potentially, liberatory power of storytelling. To those who have long been objects of knowledge, always-already observed, indexed, known, and disciplined, too often as less than human, Dear Science offers resources of hope – the means of becoming, beyond prevailing knowledge systems, knowing subjects, struggling together for what Katherine calls, in Demonic Grounds, “humanly workable geographies”. But “knowing subjects” isn’t quite right. The book is really about learning to unknow and reknow, or perhaps never know, assembling all manner of “sources and texts and narratives not to capture something or someone, but to question the analytical work of capturing, and the desire to capture, something or someone”.

The project, as Katherine outlines it in Sylvia Wynter, is about unsettling and undoing death-dealing conceptions of who/what we are, “reimagining what it means to be human and thus rearticulating who/what we are”. It involves an active and thoroughgoing undoing and unhinging – a refusal of and liberation from systems of knowledge that seek to definitively own, possess, have, exclude, extract. This is an errant labour, not just straying from that which is known, but deliberately wandering towards difference and collaborating with others. For Katherine, an open, generous, and capacious disposition to share our, and engage with others’, knowledge across a range of texts – literature, poetry, theory, drama, music, images, science, maps, and much besides – is essential if we are to learn anew how to know and be in the world and relate to each other. This is a difficult practice of carefully storying how we live, patiently articulating what we know and how we come to know, and willingly displacing and reimagining ourselves as we listen to others and take on difference. A difficult practice, to be sure, but not an impossible one. Dear Science is a demanding read, often challenging, and sometimes heartbreaking, and it’s also, throughout, energising as it invites us to embrace what a previous Antipode Lecturer called “radical vulnerability” and collectively unlearn and relearn so we might together know and live otherwise.

The essays collected below, we hope, will be good to think with as a primer or further reading to Katherine’s 2021 Antipode AAG Lecture. Together they reflect themes germane to her work, and all are available to readers without a subscription until 30th June. Many thanks to Katherine, from everyone at Antipode the journal and the Antipode Foundation, for agreeing to present at such a trying time, and to Wiley’s Rebecca Barber and Grace Ong for all their help with the lecture and virtual issue. And a special thank you to Oscar Larson and the team at the American Association of Geographers – their inestimable labours each year make the Annual Meeting a special event, and we’re thrilled to see them keep the show on the road this year.

Andy Kent
Managing Editor
25th March 2021

Virtual Issue

Carceral Geographies from Inside Prison Gates: The Micro‐Politics of Everyday Racialisation” by Stefano Bloch and Enrique Alan Olivares‐Pelayo

Racial Capital, Abolition, and a Geographic Argument for Reparations” by Joshua F.J. Inwood, Anna Livia Brand and Elise Andrea Quinn

Political Ecologies of Race: Settler Colonialism and Environmental Racism in the United States and Canada” by Levi Van Sant, Richard Milligan and Sharlene Mollett (this is the Introduction to a Symposium, which is available here)

Have Confidence in the Sea: Maritime Maroons and Fugitive Geographies” by Justin P. Dunnavant

For ‘Peace, Quiet, and Respect’: Race, Policing, and Land Grabbing on Chicago’s South Side” by Teona Williams

Struggles for Environmental Justice in US Prisons and Jails” by David N. Pellow

‘A plantation can be a commons’: Re‐Earthing Sapelo Island through Abolition Ecology” by Nik Heynen

From Urban Resilience to Abolitionist Climate Justice in Washington, DC” by Malini Ranganathan and Eve Bratman

‘Follow the Tree Flowers’: Fugitive Mapping in Beloved” by Elleza Kelley

‘In Front of the World’: Translating Beatriz Nascimento” by Christen Smith, Archie Davies and Bethânia Gomes

Black Geographies of Respite: Relief, Recuperation, and Resonance at Florida A&M University” by Douglas L. Allen

‘The Garbage of Society’: Disposable Women and the Socio‐Spatial Scripts of Femicide in Guatemala” by Lorena Fuentes

Counterinsurgency Reexamined: Racism, Capitalism, and US Military Doctrine” by Jordan T. Camp and Jennifer Greenburg

Memories of an Imperial City: Race, Gender, and Birmingham, Alabama” by Brittany Meché

The Pluralities of Black Geographies” by Adam Bledsoe and Willie Jamaal Wright

‘Our life is a struggle’: Respectable Gender Norms and Black Resistance to Policing” by Adam Elliott‐Cooper

Perilous Journeys: Visualising the Racialised ‘Refugee Crisis’” by Kathy Burrell and Kathrin Hörschelmann

Fannie Lou Hamer’s Freedom Farms and Black Agrarian Geographies” by Priscilla McCutcheon

‘Where every breeze speaks of courage and liberty’: Offshore Humanism and Marine Xenology, or, Racism and the Problem of Critique at Sea Level” by Paul Gilroy

The Antipode Lecture Series

Since 2005, Antipode has run sponsored sessions at the annual meetings of the American Association of Geographers and Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers). We invite presenters who represent both the political commitment and intellectual integrity that characterise the sort of work that appears in the journal. Their lectures are filmed by our publisher, Wiley, and made freely available online; Wiley also arrange a reception. Speakers often submit essays to be peer-reviewed and, if successful, published in Antipode. Our archive of inspiring and provocative presentations can be viewed here.

The AAG’s and RGS-IBG’s annual international conferences are widely seen as vital venues for the exchange of cutting-edge ideas – but they’re not, of course, the only ones. From 2018, the Lecture Series has been going on the road, reaching out beyond the US and UK to maximise the diversity of those contributing to our community, and facilitating engagement with scholarship from hitherto under-represented groups, regions, countries and institutions to enrich conversations and debates in Antipode. Our first stop was the joint conference of the New Zealand Geographical Society and Institute of Australian Geographers at the University of Auckland, and in 2019 we were at the Research Committee 21 conference in Delhi, India.

Let’s hope we can get out there again soon. In the meantime, we’d like to invite you to the 2021 Antipode RGS-IBG Lecture. “Taking Renewables to Market: Prospects for the After-Subsidy Energy Transition” will be presented virtually by Brett Christophers (Uppsala University) in September: