C. Hawthorne u.a. (Hgg.): The Black Geographic

The Black Geographic. Praxis, Resistance, Futurity

Hawthorne, Camilla; Scott Lewis, Jovan
344 S.
Rezensiert für 'Connections' und H-Soz-Kult von:
Ulf Engel, Institute of African Studies, Leipzig University

The Black Geographic examines the theoretical innovations of Black Geographies scholarship and how it views Blackness as historically and spatially situated. In the introduction to this anthology, Camilla Hawthorne and Jovan Scott Lewis argue that geography as a discipline has historically been “implicated in the elaboration of racial theories that continue to animate colonialism, fascism, and violent nationalisms [.…] the production of space is tied to the production of difference” (p. 2). The volume explores how geography has failed to develop epistemological and methodological tools “necessary to engage with the ongoing production of race and racisms via the production of space” (ibid.). Based on earlier discourses of Blackness (e.g., W.E.B. Du Bois, Frantz Fanon, and Stuart Hall), the origins of Black Geographies as an intersectional field of both intellectual enquiry and political struggle can be traced back to the work of Katherine McKittrick (see, e.g., Demonic Grounds: Black Women and the Cartographies of Struggle, 2006). Dominated by scholars from North America, the debate is situated somewhere between geography, ecology, sociology, feminist studies, and African diasporic studies.

Camilla Hawthorne is an associate professor at the Department of Sociology and Department of Critical Race and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is the author of Contesting Race and Citizenship: Youth Politics in the Black Mediterranean (Cornell University Press, 2022) and a coeditor of The Black Mediterranean: Bodies, Borders and Citizenship (Springer/Palgrave Macmillan, 2021). Jovan Scott Lewis is an associate professor and chair of geography at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of Violent Utopia: Dispossession and Black Restoration in Tulsa (Duke University Press, 2022) and Scammer’s Yard: The Crime of Black Repair in Jamaica (University of Minnesota Press, 2020). He is a member of the Californian state’s Reparations Task Force, the first government-initiated commission to deal with reparation for racial injustice of African-descended people in the history of the United States.

The Black Geographic comes in 3 parts and 12 chapters. In part 1, “Praxis”, the epistemological challenges of Black Geographies are discussed in reference to Du Boisian methods (based on the American sociologist’s field work in Lowndes Country, Alabama, 1906), Black literacy texts and narrative-based cognitive maps, as well as poetry. In part 2, “Resistances”, four examples of resistant practices and thinking are explored: unauthorized West African migrants in the Maghreb; language and orality; urban survival practices in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, and the colonial municipalities of the Four Communes in in Senegal; and the life of the urban, cultural, and feminist geographer Solange Muñoz (University of Heidelberg). In Part 3, “Futurity”, contributions are made to the Afro-futurist turn in Black studies in order to introduce a spatial dimension of Black life. This includes the chapters on the West Oakland Specific Plan for building green city, Afro-techtonic gathering spaces in Los Angeles, the redevelopment of the Bayview-Hunters Point neighbourhood in San Francisco, and the post–hurricane Katrina (2005) city development of New Orleans.

The editor’s intellectual and political agenda is clear and well defined. Hawthorne and Lewis succeed in developing an ambitious research agenda on The Black Geographies that is vividly illustrated by the individual chapters. The range of cases from different disciplines is just as impressive as the breadth of the source material. Time and time again, the authors succeed in demonstrating “that Black lives are inherently spatial but also that hegemonic notions of Blackness are integral to dominant modes of spatial organization” (p. 8). Nevertheless, the volume does not conceal the fact that the emerging Black Geographic scholarship is also not free of scientific controversy – for instance, on “how precisely to make sense of the afterlives of slavery, or ‘plantation futures’” (ibid.). It is striking that slavery in this context is only ever thought of as the “middle passage” – that is to say, the transatlantic slave trade is at the centre of thinking and identity constructions. This raises the question of what contribution can be expected to the debate if the field of research were to be extended to include the “many middle passages” (a term coined by Emma Christopher, Cassandra Pybus, and Marcus Redike in 2007 in an edited collection on forced migration and the making of the modern world). Here, of course, the slave trade across the Indian Ocean comes to mind first and foremost.

In conclusion, Hawthorne and Lewis make a strong point for a non-linear, relational, and multifarious global history of entanglements and place-specific sedimented histories. The Black Geographic is thus more than a stimulating contribution to the understanding of the respatialization of colonial and post-colonial imaginaries and practices. In its global history approach, however, the volume challenges us to actually set the research agenda globally – in other words, to extend the Black Geographies to the Arab world, India, Australia, China, and so on.

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Diese Rezension entstand im Rahmen des Fachforums 'Connections'. http://www.connections.clio-online.net/
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