Volume 54, Issue 4 July 2022

In their paper “Decolonisation is a Political Project”, Andrew Curley, Pallavi Gupta, Lara Lookabaugh, Christopher Neubert and Sara Smith argue for the importance of engaging with some of the overlapping concerns emerging between work on Indigenous Sovereignty and Abolition, rather than seeing these as separate or even conflicting agendas. Through doing so they stress the importance of framing decolonisation as a political project—an argument which clearly has broad relevance in the current conjuncture. This also is important in a context where many universities are adopting rather de-politicised articulations (see Decolonising the University [Pluto Press, 2018]). The concerns raised by Curly et al. are picked up in different ways in many of the papers in this issue, in line with broader political and theoretical agendas which Antipode is committed to deepening in various ways.

Thus in her paper on the dynamics of the dispossession of poor Roma in Bucharest, Michele Lancione adopts a “decolonial sensibility toward urban research”, contributing in conversation with Romanian scholarship to a “critical history and geography of dispossession” affecting Roma in the city. Two key papers in this issue are situated in relation to, and usefully expand, ideas of the relations between engaged geographical work and the Black Atlantic. Case Watkins and Judith Carney discuss some of the debates prompted by the methodological plurality of Carney’s classic book Black Rice: The African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas (Harvard University Press, 2001), critically reflecting on how such plurality offers potential “new avenues for comprehending social-ecological relationships”. In “Goodnight Colston. Mourning Slavery” Adom Philogene Heron offers a powerful and moving evocation of the “riotous procession” that toppled the statue of the Bristol slave trader Edward Colston in the city’s docks. Situating this event within the Bristol context and demonstrating the importance of opening up the archive beyond formal, official accounts Heron positions this event as part of ongoing “work of repair”.

In related terms a number of papers elaborate on questions of gendered, racialised, and sexed articulations of the politics of place. Thus Anna Lichinitzer and Itay Snir’s paper discusses the “installation of surveillance cameras in the context of settler colonialism” in the Bedouin town of Hura in Israel, offering a nuanced picture of the logics of such projects and arguing that Bedouins are “by no means passive victims of colonial violence”. Marta Camps-Calvet, Santiago Gorostiza and David Saurí open up important lenses on anti-fascist politics and social reproduction through engaging with the politics of food in Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War, foregrounding articulations of anti-fascist politics beyond those which fetishise certain forms of masculinised violence. Such articulations of Left politics and violence surface in John Ryan Karlin’s discussion of the alternative space Exarcheia in Greece which analyses vigilante violence associated with some Left politics used against marginal communities in the area. By contrast Anoop Nayak and Carl Bonner-Thompson engage with young people’s relations to dominant forms of gender and sexuality politics in a post-industrial community in the north-east of England, noting how they are at least in part involved in reconfiguring community norms.

A further set of papers engage in depth with different spatial dynamics of expropriation. Thus Kevin Donovan and Emma Park, discussing what they term the “zero balance economy” in the context of Kenya, argue that this “subjugates workers and states to the conditions for expropriation”. In particular they discuss the relations between “predatory lending” and broader forms of expropriation. Rebecca Lea Potts offers a vivid personal narrative of a “clock factory turned strip club” building in New Haven, Connecticut, discussing the eviction of the latter premises. Narrating this through different forms of “stickiness”, Potts astutely draws together engagements with different forms of labour and the ways these have been structured by forms of “moralistic temporality”. In her paper Chantal Gailloux engages with the eviction of community gardens in East Harlem, tracing how licensing processes were used to discredit Black and Brown gardeners leading to forms of dispossession inscribed in the accumulation process which “fed in racist logics of property”. This paper also speaks to the ambivalences of civil society politics which are foregrounded by Braden Leap, Marybeth Stalp and Kimberly Kelly’s paper on responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in the USA. Through detailed discussions of the work of PPE makers they evoke their tensioned location in relation to the state’s failure to provide an adequate response to the pandemic.

Stefan Bouzarovski’s critique of the idea of “just transitions” from a political ecological perspective is one in a final set of papers discussing aspects of environmental politics and transformations. Drawing attention to some of the limits of ideas of the Green New Deal, Bouzarovski argues that such critical work can push just transitions perspectives in ways that “embraces socio-naturally hybrid and politically disruptive practices”. In related terms Linda Westman and Vanesa Castán Broto challenge the way notions of urban transformations are used in relation to climate policy through theorising the function of what they term “ivy discourses”. Drawing on Ernesto Laclau’s work, they suggest that while such discourses may have radical roots, the way they negotiate demands for societal change obscures more radical challenges. Pressures on environmental regulation are detailed in depth by Becky Mansfield in a paper which charts how the Trump administration intensified forms of deregulation relating to particulate pollution; Mansfield carefully investigates how this contributed to “racist regimes of breathing”. This paper concludes in terms which resonate with the arguments of the authors of “Decolonisation as a Political Project”, arguing that the “violence of toxicity neither starts nor ends with immediate exposures but is embedded in, and emerges from, a much wider set of anti-black and settler colonial structures and processes”. This emphasises the importance of understanding the multiple terrains through which decolonisation as a political project might work, a project which Antipode in its own small way will continue to contribute to (see, for example, our recent interview with Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni, “A Resurgence of Decolonisation: We Need to do African Studies with Africans”).

The Antipode Editorial Collective, July 2022

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