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Geographies of race and ethnicity 1: Black geographies

Geographies of race and ethnicity 1: Black geographies This first of three progress reports gives a brief overview of the new field of Black Geographies. It elucidates Black Geographies as a field that not only critiques the erasure of Blackness within the whiteness and coloniality of geographical thought, but also centres Black spatial thought and agency. Thus, Black Geog- raphies is an im/possible undertaking. Nonetheless, Black Geographies speaks not only about the spatialities of Black people but overwhelmingly speaks from the voices of Black geographers: Geography will need to recruit and retain enough Black geographers to make such an undertaking truly possible. Keywords Black Geographies, postcolonial, anti-colonial, intersectionality, marginalisation not only to catalogue exclusion but also to critique I Introduction: mapping exclusionary logics and conditions of knowledge Black Geographies production. The newness of Black Geographies, cen- For this first of three reports on Race and Ethnicity in tring the work of Black geographers without excluding Geography, I want to begin with one of the most relevant work of other geographers, appears potentially significant moves in the last 5 years – the inception of revolutionary in challenging the exclusionary condi- the field of Black Geographies, written largely tions of geographical knowledge production, due to (though not exclusively) by Black geographers. As which Black geographers remain a relatively small Patricia Price (2011, 2013, 2015), Laura Pulido group (Byron, 2020; Desai, 2017; Hawthorne and (2015, 2017, 2018), and Anne Bonds (2018, 2020) Heitz, 2018; Okoye, 2021a). But Black geographers have all shown before me, Geographies of Race and are growing in number and contribution globally, and Ethnicity have been largely focused on geographical my plan for this and the next two reports is to consider knowledge that bears witness to the spatialities of the consequences of that growth in embodied diversity coloniality and exclusion based on race and ethnicity. for geographical knowledge. However, in large part, such spatialised exclusion This paper begins a mapping of the complex rests on the exclusionary foundations of (post)co- spatialities of the emerging Black Geographies lonial formations of geographical knowledge, which are themselves reproduced through exclusionary Corresponding author: conditions of geographical knowledge production Pat Noxolo, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham (see, for example, Clement, 2020; Wang, 2021). So, B15 2TT, UK. this report’s focus is on Black Geographies’ mission Email: p.e.p.noxolo@bham.ac.uk Noxolo 1233 literature. My aim here is not to set out what Black for example James 1998; Mudimbe, 1988; Rhodes Geography’s agendas should be in the future, nor 2021), in this section I am confining Black Geog- even to point out what are its current gaps. I elucidate raphies to ‘Black Geographies’ so named. In as- Black Geographies’ central concerns as twofold: serting that Black Geographies is definitively around Geography’s anti-Black histories, spatial African-American in origin, I am locating its logics and conditions of knowledge production; and starting point in the considerable labours of Black around how those disciplinary logics both determine geographers in the US, particularly women like and are effectively resisted by the space- and place- LaToya Eaves, who pushed successfully for an making agency of Black thought and communities. institutional recognition that takes its most visible In other words, Black Geographies frame Black form in the Black Geographies Specialty Group, spatialities as always im/possible: always erased and formed in 2016, at the American Association of yet always present. My aim therefore is to consider Geographers (Hawthorne, 2019). how those same logics and historical/contemporary As an institutionalised field so named, Black conditions of knowledge production are inevitably Geographies begins in the Americas. That beginning shaping the emergence of Black Geographies. Pre- gives some very clear agendas and formations to dictably, Black Geographies so named are rooted in Black Geographies, which are key to the challenge the powerful epicentre of US-focused Black that it poses to Geography as a postcolonial white knowledge production and are routing outwards discipline. Black Geographies deliberately centres from there to other centres of Black community. At the locations and spatialities that condition and de- the same time, Black Geographies’ own anti-colonial termine Black lives in the post-enslavement Amer- and anti-racist logics always already resist and de- icas – the plantation (McKittrick, 2011), the prison centre this powerful US epicentering, re-reading (Gilmore, 2007), urban built environments (Shabazz, Black Geographies as rooted in/routed through a 2015), and the post-segregation agricultural land- more globalised and diverse vision of Blackness. I scape of the American South (Bledsoe et al., 2017; end by suggesting that the historical and contem- Harris and Hyden, 2017). Black Geographies cri- porary conditions of Black thought, out of which tiques and catalogues the many ways in which Black Black Geographies grows, have been necessarily lives have been shaped by the spatial logics and more globalised and less bound by academic con- conditions of colonialism, enslavement and white fines. Thus, the future spatialities of Black Geog- supremacy under the unequal environmental and raphies are much less predictable. territorial conditions of racial capitalism (Bledsoe and Wright, 2019b; Pulido 2016). At the same time, the long tradition of radical Black and anti-colonial thought and action is also a defining spatial force. II The im/possibility of Therefore, canonical Black intellectuals, from Af- Black Geographies rica, the Caribbean and Canada as well as from the I want to start by acknowledging that Black Geog- US, are key to theorising the geographies of Black raphies actually is focused on African-American experience. Du Bois’s (1897) ‘double consciousness’ Geographies as its starting point. In making this is a key interdisciplinary referent, for example heuristic move, I am beginning with a somewhat (Brand, 2018), in describing the im/possibility of reductive version of what Black Geographies is. In Black intellectual life, how we live in and contend contrast to Hawthorne (2019), who is rightly keen to with ‘the wake’ (Sharpe, 2016) of colonial legacies emphasise its antecedents and connections, rather and systems of thought (Mbembe, 2017; Wynter, than beginning by tracing its routes and futures into 2003); whilst marronage is a key framework for its myriad transnational ties with an anti-colonial understanding how we resist coloniality and find Black politics that echoes through from Black forms of critical agency that can challenge this all- Freedom Fighters, fugitives and intellectuals in Af- encompassing system and work in concord with rica, the Caribbean, Latin America and Europe (see Black humanity (Bledsoe et al., 2017; Purifoy 2021). 1234 Progress in Human Geography 46(5) Centring Black life and thought, together, is towards a deepening in the terms of engagement that crucial. Or, in the words of Frank Wilderson (cited in recognises that our entirety, all that we are, both what Park, 2020, p. 31, my emphasis) ‘what does black- Geography can read as human and what it can’t, is ness mean as opposed to what does blackness ex- also human. But focusing on the entirety of Black perience?’ The historical and contemporary spatial thought brings us to the heart of im/ exclusions of Black knowledges in white-dominated possibility: if Geography is founded on the erasure global knowledge regimes mean that Black thought of Black spatial thought – how else could colonialism is always subject to omission and erasure. Under take places? – centring Black spatial thought means these conditions, the foundational colonial missions radically rethinking how Geography understands of Geography – to explore and map out the world space, place and spatial agency. A starting point for within the extractivist and exploitational logics of such a reimagining has been marronage or Maroon colonial and capitalist regimes (Crampton and geographies, with its historical basis in Black people Krygier, 2006; de Leeuw and Hunt, 2018) – fleeing enslavement and living outside the bounds of would seem to make Black Geographies a contra- whiteness, making places in unsurveilled territories diction in terms. Similar to the critique of Geog- in which ‘residents reject the logics of racial violence raphy’s premature moves to decolonise (Esson et al., that structure the world around them’ (Winston 2021: 2017), it might be argued that the discipline is not yet 2187). The im/possible history of voluntary Black ready to include Black Geographies. Black Geog- separatism and community-making has often been raphies grow under im/possible conditions. The one of repetitive displacement (Ramırez, 2020), but historical dispossession of Black geographers within Winston (2021) helpfully thinks through how Ma- a (post)colonial discipline is in tension with the de roon geographies can also be understood as finding facto agency of Black communities to make space ways to stay in place, through forms of communal and to be in place – as embodied human beings living in which shared property is defended by the Black people are always making place and taking up whole community, and property owners fly under the space, theorising it as we live it, whilst always at the radar of white surveillance by, for example, refusing same time being erased from documented spatial to file deeds to their properties. These practices lead knowledge and from the ownership of place to a theorisation of place that is not just communal (McKittrick, 2006). Under conditions of knowledge but is relational – rather than theorising place as production where subject positions are often listed parcels of investable, material space that ‘largely but enunciative positions are still rarely analysed represent histories and visions of the most privileged’ (Rose, 1997), McKittrick (2011: 948) pays attention (Allen et al., 2019), place might be understood as to ‘a paradoxical preoccupation with the suffering/ consisting of ‘overlapping and competing place- violated black body and the stubborn denial of a frames… [so that] place-making does not require black sense of place’– the erasure of Black spatial access to any resources to practice’ (Allen et al., practice and of Black thought about space often 2019). In this way of thinking, Black place-making is becomes the impossible starting point for discussion led by Black spatial thought and action, rather than of Black spatialities. by a material capacity to possess territory, invest in it By centring Black spatial thought, rather than just and keep others off it. noting its erasure, one of the most radical effects of As Allen et al. point out, relational place-making Black Geographies might be to finally move Ge- is not unique to Black Geographies (see for example ography away from its postcolonial liberal impulse to Pierce et al., 2011). In deploying it, Black Geogra- try to include Black geographers in dialogue only on phies is reaching out to tentatively re-evaluate and its own exclusionary terms (Hawthorne and Heitz, draw from the larger pool of geographical thought. 2018). Instead, Black Geographies might push the Yet relational place-making is still about making discipline towards a historical moment in which ‘an space for Black place-making: rather than asserting a ethical analytics of race [is] based not on suffering, radical departure it accepts dominant spatialities and but on human life’ (McKittrick, 2011: 948), or argues for an acceptance that multiple or palimpsestic Noxolo 1235 place-making can be layered on top of them. I in which she includes Stuart Hall and Paul Gilroy. wonder whether this additive relationality can really Notable to me, as someone with a heritage and in- be a sufficiently radical answer for the voraciously terest in Caribbean Studies, is that Caribbean writers exploitative and extractive processes that accompany are prominent in all these different tributaries, and racial capitalism: poverty, inequality, environmental not just because Caribbean thinkers have a long racism (Agyeman, 2013; Pulido, 2016; Abdu et al., tradition of being spatially mobile (James, 1998). forthcoming). My point in this section has been that, Caribbean writers feed into Black Geographies potentially, Black Geographies works in the long through multiple spatial trajectories because Black term towards more radical theorisations of Black thought is no respecter of borders and ‘borderization’ spatialities, coming less from existing geographical (Mbembe, 2021: 21). Despite racialised border se- thought and more through observation and recu- curity measures (Browne, 2015), Black thought peration of Black spatial agency. Through the slow moves with the Black person – including the dis- work of theorising from ethnographies of activist possessed, the refugee, the migrant and the fugitive – and grassroots spatial practice, and through the and it will therefore very often overflow conventional recognition of Black cultural practice as geo- geographical boundaries. Pinnock (forthcoming, n. graphical, Black Geographies is building towards p.) note their concept of Global Black Geographies is spatial theory that is centred on Black life and not seeking to exclude Black Geographies, but, by thought, even within continuing conditions of im/ ‘[b]ypassing the North Atlantic’ it does seek to ‘take possibility. up its questioning elsewhere’, interrogating the nation-state and other postcolonial spatial formations that might make Black spatial thought ‘available for capture’ (see also Uzor, 2018, on the concept of III The changing spatial logics of ‘avoiding capture’). To think beyond the nation-state Black Geographies and other forms of geopolitical territoriality that come out of colonialism and anti-colonialism, is to This section considers that powerful spatial logics have shaped the beginning of Black Geographies, seek and find Black Geographies wherever they rooting it in the US. However, its future spatial might be, without geopolitical limits, navigating logics are less predictable. According to its own their own ‘wayward’ (Hartman, 2019)spatial decolonising logic, Black thought is always already logics. It is impossible at this point to say what such decentring the US, both because its centring of thoroughly decolonised logics might be, or even Black lives and thought resonates with Black ge- whether they are entirely possible within the current ographers who focus on other contexts, and because global capitalist system. Certainly, digital com- the ever-present differences within Blackness cut munication, including social media, will be im- through and connect Black Geographies with a wide portant in future patterns of circulation of Black range of differently emplaced intersections and knowledge (Okoye, 2021b; Gayle, 2020), with struggles. routes that wander outside the formal academy and Recent attempts to globalise Black Geographies well beyond language (Joseph and Bell, 2020; so labelled open up some of these questions of Sobande, 2020; Tel ´ e´maque, 2021; Uzor 2020). changing spatial logics. Camilla Hawthorne (2019) Even while we wait for Black spatialities to be notes rightly that Black Geographies is fed by a more fully revealed, an already emergent global field Black Radical Tradition that includes the Martinican of Black Geographies (not always so named) rec- writer Fanon as much as the Combahee River Col- ognises that, in the here and now, spaces and places – lective. At the same time, she notes that other the European, African or Australian city, for example tributaries that flow into Black Geographies are from – are constituted with and through Blackness Black Caribbean theories and studies (James, 2001; (Noxolo, 2016; Shaw, 2013; Simone, 2009). Con- Mintz, 1986; Glissant, 1997) and from what she calls versely, Black Geographies begins to be marked by a ‘Black/African diaspora studies’ (Hawthorne, 2019:5), recognition that Blackness is constituted in and by a 1236 Progress in Human Geography 46(5) wide range of places and spaces (cf. Allen et al., Geography have had their range and influence se- 2019). The emplacedness of Blackness requires an riously curtailed during their lifetimes, due to the attention to specificity. Where in the US intimate sites dominance of Anglophone geographies and the unre- of Black existence like the stoop and the Black- sponsiveness of translation agendas (Santos, 2021; owned business are key spatial sites and symbols Ferretti and Pedrosa, 2018; Nascimento, translation of Black discourse and resistance (Brand, 2018), in available in Smith et al., 2021). Nonetheless, digital the Caribbean, Canada and Australia studies of other affordances make new experiments in multi-lingual and intimate spaces – the lakou, the street corner, the multi-modal communication accessible to many more mall, the cafe´ – reveal other political sites of sur- globally (see for example Global Black Geographers veillance and resistance through dance and play- Collective, 2022): such innovations hold a promise of fulness (Sapp Moore, 2021; Lobo, 2016; Recollet, more transnationally dialogic futures. 2015; Stanley Niaah, 2010; see also Hirsch and Given the diversity and specificity of Blackness, Jones, 2021 on intimacy and joy). But emplaced- the future of Black Geographies might be a splintered ness does not of course deny the transnational and one, dividing into different locations, such as Black geopolitical logics of white supremacy, in terms of British Geographies (Noxolo, 2016), or, for that the mobile and shared logics of colonialism matter, into different specialisms within Geography, (McKittrick, 2011) that intersect (Massey, 1995) such as Black Urbanisms (Simone, 2009). An al- each place. There is a need to be alive to both the ternative is to make difference foundational to Black specific and the shared spatialities of each of many Geographies, thinking consistently across differ- Blacknesses, as well as each of many ‘racisms’ (Hall, ences within Blackness, as they take place, within 1992: 13). their own localities (Bledsoe and Wright, 2019a). To maintain this balance between the specific and Given its interdisciplinary routing in US-based Black the shared, Black Geographies will seek to avoid the Feminism (Crenshaw 2019), and despite its frequent iterative colonising logic of Geography’s history as a misuse (Hopkins, 2019) where it becomes unmoored discipline in which explorers set out repeatedly from from the politics of race and gender, intersectionality the colonial centre to map and fix identities (Noxolo, is always already available as a means to think Black 2017). And yet, as Cusicanqui (2012) has warned in Geographies’ contention with difference. Always a relation to decolonial theory, given the nature of fully contextualised ‘work-in-progress’ (Carbado publishing regimes and career structures it may well et al., 2013: 304), intersectionality digs deep into be only the most mobile versions of Black Geog- the precise articulations among Blackness, class, raphy that get taken up within the global neoliberal gender, disability, sexuality (Eaves, 2017; Nayak, academy, those that can be packaged in the US or 2019; Rosenberg, 2021; White, 2020) and many Europe and applied in a range of places, rather than other differences that inflect Blackness and (anti-) those that are genuinely grounded in the diversity and racism in highly contextualised ways. Moreover, the specificity of Black experience. One example of the connections and disconnections between Black issues faced in the circulation of knowledge based on people and differently racialised/ethnicised groups – specific Black spatialities is the wide range of lan- indigenous, Latinx, Asian, Irish, Jewish – are guages spoken in the African diaspora, not least the structured through highly distinct and localised imposition and separate circulation of colonial lan- historical narratives of conviviality, collectivity, guages (French, Spanish, Portuguese, English): in contingent allyships and, sometimes, complicity the colonial period and after it, language difference (Chari, 2021; Ramırez, 2020; Shaw, 2013). They cuts distinct swathes of circulatory routes and raise urgent issues around subject positions: who can boundaries across the globe. As Ngugi waThiongʼ o speak for and about communities with such complex (1986) made clear many years ago, language is a key intersections? Each of these intersections (and many component of identity and therefore of place and more) within and around Blackness must be carefully space. Historically, for example, some hugely im- researched within, and from the precise enunciative portant Afro-Brazilian Lusophone voices in positions within, its own distinctive emplacement. Noxolo 1237 Only with this careful attention to specificity can Declaration of conflicting interests Black spatialities be approached through their own The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest highly complex, im/possible spatial logics. with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. Funding IV Conclusion: Im/possible conditions The author(s) received no financial support for the re- of Black geographical search, authorship, and/or publication of this article. knowledge production The conclusion of this short report is that the impacts ORCID iD of the im/possible logics and conditions of a post- Pat Noxolo https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3051-1576 colonial and historically anti-Black discipline are inescapable, making Black Geographies an im/ Notes possible endeavour. However, the decolonial and anti-racist critique that Black Geographies pro- 1. Black will be capitalised throughout, as a political vides, in conjunction with the historical and contem- identity. However, political terminology is a thoroughly porary affordances of globalised and mobile Black unsettled and dynamic terrain. Therefore, wherever I am traditions of thought, both inside and outside the quoting from someone, I will keep their spelling, academy, might enable some even more radical de- whether black or Black. partures in the future. 2. Black in Black Geographies is focused within the dark- A thread running through this report has been the skinned African diaspora. There are those who are im/possible enunciative position of Black Geogra- beginning to question this, introducing more inclusive phies. I have conceded from the outset that Black political notions of Blackness (e.g. Chari, 2021). geographers do not exclusively produce Black Ge- However, given the recentring of whiteness and the ographies. However, despite our small number, the huge ethnic differences, inequalities and forms of main implication of my argument here is that Black colourism that are often obscured by more generalist Geographies should overwhelmingly come from ‘non-white’ or ‘BAME’-type formations, this article Black geographers. Why? As I have set out, the main maintains the specificity of Black as dark-skinned/ critique that Black Geographies mounts is that African diaspora, with all due recognition of the geographical knowledge has historically been ex- many slippages and non-contiguity between the two. clusionary of Black spatial thought and agency: in response, Black Geographies centres Black spatial References thought and agency. Therefore, unless the discipline Abdu M, Assam B, Blagden D, et al. (forthcoming) Black actually recruits and retains enough Black geogra- Sustainability: Fi Wi Road Interns’ Agenda for phers to sustain a field named ‘Black Geographies’, Change. 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Geographies of race and ethnicity 1: Black geographies

Progress in Human Geography , Volume 46 (5): 9 – Oct 1, 2022

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0309-1325
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10.1177/03091325221085291
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Abstract

This first of three progress reports gives a brief overview of the new field of Black Geographies. It elucidates Black Geographies as a field that not only critiques the erasure of Blackness within the whiteness and coloniality of geographical thought, but also centres Black spatial thought and agency. Thus, Black Geog- raphies is an im/possible undertaking. Nonetheless, Black Geographies speaks not only about the spatialities of Black people but overwhelmingly speaks from the voices of Black geographers: Geography will need to recruit and retain enough Black geographers to make such an undertaking truly possible. Keywords Black Geographies, postcolonial, anti-colonial, intersectionality, marginalisation not only to catalogue exclusion but also to critique I Introduction: mapping exclusionary logics and conditions of knowledge Black Geographies production. The newness of Black Geographies, cen- For this first of three reports on Race and Ethnicity in tring the work of Black geographers without excluding Geography, I want to begin with one of the most relevant work of other geographers, appears potentially significant moves in the last 5 years – the inception of revolutionary in challenging the exclusionary condi- the field of Black Geographies, written largely tions of geographical knowledge production, due to (though not exclusively) by Black geographers. As which Black geographers remain a relatively small Patricia Price (2011, 2013, 2015), Laura Pulido group (Byron, 2020; Desai, 2017; Hawthorne and (2015, 2017, 2018), and Anne Bonds (2018, 2020) Heitz, 2018; Okoye, 2021a). But Black geographers have all shown before me, Geographies of Race and are growing in number and contribution globally, and Ethnicity have been largely focused on geographical my plan for this and the next two reports is to consider knowledge that bears witness to the spatialities of the consequences of that growth in embodied diversity coloniality and exclusion based on race and ethnicity. for geographical knowledge. However, in large part, such spatialised exclusion This paper begins a mapping of the complex rests on the exclusionary foundations of (post)co- spatialities of the emerging Black Geographies lonial formations of geographical knowledge, which are themselves reproduced through exclusionary Corresponding author: conditions of geographical knowledge production Pat Noxolo, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham (see, for example, Clement, 2020; Wang, 2021). So, B15 2TT, UK. this report’s focus is on Black Geographies’ mission Email: p.e.p.noxolo@bham.ac.uk Noxolo 1233 literature. My aim here is not to set out what Black for example James 1998; Mudimbe, 1988; Rhodes Geography’s agendas should be in the future, nor 2021), in this section I am confining Black Geog- even to point out what are its current gaps. I elucidate raphies to ‘Black Geographies’ so named. In as- Black Geographies’ central concerns as twofold: serting that Black Geographies is definitively around Geography’s anti-Black histories, spatial African-American in origin, I am locating its logics and conditions of knowledge production; and starting point in the considerable labours of Black around how those disciplinary logics both determine geographers in the US, particularly women like and are effectively resisted by the space- and place- LaToya Eaves, who pushed successfully for an making agency of Black thought and communities. institutional recognition that takes its most visible In other words, Black Geographies frame Black form in the Black Geographies Specialty Group, spatialities as always im/possible: always erased and formed in 2016, at the American Association of yet always present. My aim therefore is to consider Geographers (Hawthorne, 2019). how those same logics and historical/contemporary As an institutionalised field so named, Black conditions of knowledge production are inevitably Geographies begins in the Americas. That beginning shaping the emergence of Black Geographies. Pre- gives some very clear agendas and formations to dictably, Black Geographies so named are rooted in Black Geographies, which are key to the challenge the powerful epicentre of US-focused Black that it poses to Geography as a postcolonial white knowledge production and are routing outwards discipline. Black Geographies deliberately centres from there to other centres of Black community. At the locations and spatialities that condition and de- the same time, Black Geographies’ own anti-colonial termine Black lives in the post-enslavement Amer- and anti-racist logics always already resist and de- icas – the plantation (McKittrick, 2011), the prison centre this powerful US epicentering, re-reading (Gilmore, 2007), urban built environments (Shabazz, Black Geographies as rooted in/routed through a 2015), and the post-segregation agricultural land- more globalised and diverse vision of Blackness. I scape of the American South (Bledsoe et al., 2017; end by suggesting that the historical and contem- Harris and Hyden, 2017). Black Geographies cri- porary conditions of Black thought, out of which tiques and catalogues the many ways in which Black Black Geographies grows, have been necessarily lives have been shaped by the spatial logics and more globalised and less bound by academic con- conditions of colonialism, enslavement and white fines. Thus, the future spatialities of Black Geog- supremacy under the unequal environmental and raphies are much less predictable. territorial conditions of racial capitalism (Bledsoe and Wright, 2019b; Pulido 2016). At the same time, the long tradition of radical Black and anti-colonial thought and action is also a defining spatial force. II The im/possibility of Therefore, canonical Black intellectuals, from Af- Black Geographies rica, the Caribbean and Canada as well as from the I want to start by acknowledging that Black Geog- US, are key to theorising the geographies of Black raphies actually is focused on African-American experience. Du Bois’s (1897) ‘double consciousness’ Geographies as its starting point. In making this is a key interdisciplinary referent, for example heuristic move, I am beginning with a somewhat (Brand, 2018), in describing the im/possibility of reductive version of what Black Geographies is. In Black intellectual life, how we live in and contend contrast to Hawthorne (2019), who is rightly keen to with ‘the wake’ (Sharpe, 2016) of colonial legacies emphasise its antecedents and connections, rather and systems of thought (Mbembe, 2017; Wynter, than beginning by tracing its routes and futures into 2003); whilst marronage is a key framework for its myriad transnational ties with an anti-colonial understanding how we resist coloniality and find Black politics that echoes through from Black forms of critical agency that can challenge this all- Freedom Fighters, fugitives and intellectuals in Af- encompassing system and work in concord with rica, the Caribbean, Latin America and Europe (see Black humanity (Bledsoe et al., 2017; Purifoy 2021). 1234 Progress in Human Geography 46(5) Centring Black life and thought, together, is towards a deepening in the terms of engagement that crucial. Or, in the words of Frank Wilderson (cited in recognises that our entirety, all that we are, both what Park, 2020, p. 31, my emphasis) ‘what does black- Geography can read as human and what it can’t, is ness mean as opposed to what does blackness ex- also human. But focusing on the entirety of Black perience?’ The historical and contemporary spatial thought brings us to the heart of im/ exclusions of Black knowledges in white-dominated possibility: if Geography is founded on the erasure global knowledge regimes mean that Black thought of Black spatial thought – how else could colonialism is always subject to omission and erasure. Under take places? – centring Black spatial thought means these conditions, the foundational colonial missions radically rethinking how Geography understands of Geography – to explore and map out the world space, place and spatial agency. A starting point for within the extractivist and exploitational logics of such a reimagining has been marronage or Maroon colonial and capitalist regimes (Crampton and geographies, with its historical basis in Black people Krygier, 2006; de Leeuw and Hunt, 2018) – fleeing enslavement and living outside the bounds of would seem to make Black Geographies a contra- whiteness, making places in unsurveilled territories diction in terms. Similar to the critique of Geog- in which ‘residents reject the logics of racial violence raphy’s premature moves to decolonise (Esson et al., that structure the world around them’ (Winston 2021: 2017), it might be argued that the discipline is not yet 2187). The im/possible history of voluntary Black ready to include Black Geographies. Black Geog- separatism and community-making has often been raphies grow under im/possible conditions. The one of repetitive displacement (Ramırez, 2020), but historical dispossession of Black geographers within Winston (2021) helpfully thinks through how Ma- a (post)colonial discipline is in tension with the de roon geographies can also be understood as finding facto agency of Black communities to make space ways to stay in place, through forms of communal and to be in place – as embodied human beings living in which shared property is defended by the Black people are always making place and taking up whole community, and property owners fly under the space, theorising it as we live it, whilst always at the radar of white surveillance by, for example, refusing same time being erased from documented spatial to file deeds to their properties. These practices lead knowledge and from the ownership of place to a theorisation of place that is not just communal (McKittrick, 2006). Under conditions of knowledge but is relational – rather than theorising place as production where subject positions are often listed parcels of investable, material space that ‘largely but enunciative positions are still rarely analysed represent histories and visions of the most privileged’ (Rose, 1997), McKittrick (2011: 948) pays attention (Allen et al., 2019), place might be understood as to ‘a paradoxical preoccupation with the suffering/ consisting of ‘overlapping and competing place- violated black body and the stubborn denial of a frames… [so that] place-making does not require black sense of place’– the erasure of Black spatial access to any resources to practice’ (Allen et al., practice and of Black thought about space often 2019). In this way of thinking, Black place-making is becomes the impossible starting point for discussion led by Black spatial thought and action, rather than of Black spatialities. by a material capacity to possess territory, invest in it By centring Black spatial thought, rather than just and keep others off it. noting its erasure, one of the most radical effects of As Allen et al. point out, relational place-making Black Geographies might be to finally move Ge- is not unique to Black Geographies (see for example ography away from its postcolonial liberal impulse to Pierce et al., 2011). In deploying it, Black Geogra- try to include Black geographers in dialogue only on phies is reaching out to tentatively re-evaluate and its own exclusionary terms (Hawthorne and Heitz, draw from the larger pool of geographical thought. 2018). Instead, Black Geographies might push the Yet relational place-making is still about making discipline towards a historical moment in which ‘an space for Black place-making: rather than asserting a ethical analytics of race [is] based not on suffering, radical departure it accepts dominant spatialities and but on human life’ (McKittrick, 2011: 948), or argues for an acceptance that multiple or palimpsestic Noxolo 1235 place-making can be layered on top of them. I in which she includes Stuart Hall and Paul Gilroy. wonder whether this additive relationality can really Notable to me, as someone with a heritage and in- be a sufficiently radical answer for the voraciously terest in Caribbean Studies, is that Caribbean writers exploitative and extractive processes that accompany are prominent in all these different tributaries, and racial capitalism: poverty, inequality, environmental not just because Caribbean thinkers have a long racism (Agyeman, 2013; Pulido, 2016; Abdu et al., tradition of being spatially mobile (James, 1998). forthcoming). My point in this section has been that, Caribbean writers feed into Black Geographies potentially, Black Geographies works in the long through multiple spatial trajectories because Black term towards more radical theorisations of Black thought is no respecter of borders and ‘borderization’ spatialities, coming less from existing geographical (Mbembe, 2021: 21). Despite racialised border se- thought and more through observation and recu- curity measures (Browne, 2015), Black thought peration of Black spatial agency. Through the slow moves with the Black person – including the dis- work of theorising from ethnographies of activist possessed, the refugee, the migrant and the fugitive – and grassroots spatial practice, and through the and it will therefore very often overflow conventional recognition of Black cultural practice as geo- geographical boundaries. Pinnock (forthcoming, n. graphical, Black Geographies is building towards p.) note their concept of Global Black Geographies is spatial theory that is centred on Black life and not seeking to exclude Black Geographies, but, by thought, even within continuing conditions of im/ ‘[b]ypassing the North Atlantic’ it does seek to ‘take possibility. up its questioning elsewhere’, interrogating the nation-state and other postcolonial spatial formations that might make Black spatial thought ‘available for capture’ (see also Uzor, 2018, on the concept of III The changing spatial logics of ‘avoiding capture’). To think beyond the nation-state Black Geographies and other forms of geopolitical territoriality that come out of colonialism and anti-colonialism, is to This section considers that powerful spatial logics have shaped the beginning of Black Geographies, seek and find Black Geographies wherever they rooting it in the US. However, its future spatial might be, without geopolitical limits, navigating logics are less predictable. According to its own their own ‘wayward’ (Hartman, 2019)spatial decolonising logic, Black thought is always already logics. It is impossible at this point to say what such decentring the US, both because its centring of thoroughly decolonised logics might be, or even Black lives and thought resonates with Black ge- whether they are entirely possible within the current ographers who focus on other contexts, and because global capitalist system. Certainly, digital com- the ever-present differences within Blackness cut munication, including social media, will be im- through and connect Black Geographies with a wide portant in future patterns of circulation of Black range of differently emplaced intersections and knowledge (Okoye, 2021b; Gayle, 2020), with struggles. routes that wander outside the formal academy and Recent attempts to globalise Black Geographies well beyond language (Joseph and Bell, 2020; so labelled open up some of these questions of Sobande, 2020; Tel ´ e´maque, 2021; Uzor 2020). changing spatial logics. Camilla Hawthorne (2019) Even while we wait for Black spatialities to be notes rightly that Black Geographies is fed by a more fully revealed, an already emergent global field Black Radical Tradition that includes the Martinican of Black Geographies (not always so named) rec- writer Fanon as much as the Combahee River Col- ognises that, in the here and now, spaces and places – lective. At the same time, she notes that other the European, African or Australian city, for example tributaries that flow into Black Geographies are from – are constituted with and through Blackness Black Caribbean theories and studies (James, 2001; (Noxolo, 2016; Shaw, 2013; Simone, 2009). Con- Mintz, 1986; Glissant, 1997) and from what she calls versely, Black Geographies begins to be marked by a ‘Black/African diaspora studies’ (Hawthorne, 2019:5), recognition that Blackness is constituted in and by a 1236 Progress in Human Geography 46(5) wide range of places and spaces (cf. Allen et al., Geography have had their range and influence se- 2019). The emplacedness of Blackness requires an riously curtailed during their lifetimes, due to the attention to specificity. Where in the US intimate sites dominance of Anglophone geographies and the unre- of Black existence like the stoop and the Black- sponsiveness of translation agendas (Santos, 2021; owned business are key spatial sites and symbols Ferretti and Pedrosa, 2018; Nascimento, translation of Black discourse and resistance (Brand, 2018), in available in Smith et al., 2021). Nonetheless, digital the Caribbean, Canada and Australia studies of other affordances make new experiments in multi-lingual and intimate spaces – the lakou, the street corner, the multi-modal communication accessible to many more mall, the cafe´ – reveal other political sites of sur- globally (see for example Global Black Geographers veillance and resistance through dance and play- Collective, 2022): such innovations hold a promise of fulness (Sapp Moore, 2021; Lobo, 2016; Recollet, more transnationally dialogic futures. 2015; Stanley Niaah, 2010; see also Hirsch and Given the diversity and specificity of Blackness, Jones, 2021 on intimacy and joy). But emplaced- the future of Black Geographies might be a splintered ness does not of course deny the transnational and one, dividing into different locations, such as Black geopolitical logics of white supremacy, in terms of British Geographies (Noxolo, 2016), or, for that the mobile and shared logics of colonialism matter, into different specialisms within Geography, (McKittrick, 2011) that intersect (Massey, 1995) such as Black Urbanisms (Simone, 2009). An al- each place. There is a need to be alive to both the ternative is to make difference foundational to Black specific and the shared spatialities of each of many Geographies, thinking consistently across differ- Blacknesses, as well as each of many ‘racisms’ (Hall, ences within Blackness, as they take place, within 1992: 13). their own localities (Bledsoe and Wright, 2019a). To maintain this balance between the specific and Given its interdisciplinary routing in US-based Black the shared, Black Geographies will seek to avoid the Feminism (Crenshaw 2019), and despite its frequent iterative colonising logic of Geography’s history as a misuse (Hopkins, 2019) where it becomes unmoored discipline in which explorers set out repeatedly from from the politics of race and gender, intersectionality the colonial centre to map and fix identities (Noxolo, is always already available as a means to think Black 2017). And yet, as Cusicanqui (2012) has warned in Geographies’ contention with difference. Always a relation to decolonial theory, given the nature of fully contextualised ‘work-in-progress’ (Carbado publishing regimes and career structures it may well et al., 2013: 304), intersectionality digs deep into be only the most mobile versions of Black Geog- the precise articulations among Blackness, class, raphy that get taken up within the global neoliberal gender, disability, sexuality (Eaves, 2017; Nayak, academy, those that can be packaged in the US or 2019; Rosenberg, 2021; White, 2020) and many Europe and applied in a range of places, rather than other differences that inflect Blackness and (anti-) those that are genuinely grounded in the diversity and racism in highly contextualised ways. Moreover, the specificity of Black experience. One example of the connections and disconnections between Black issues faced in the circulation of knowledge based on people and differently racialised/ethnicised groups – specific Black spatialities is the wide range of lan- indigenous, Latinx, Asian, Irish, Jewish – are guages spoken in the African diaspora, not least the structured through highly distinct and localised imposition and separate circulation of colonial lan- historical narratives of conviviality, collectivity, guages (French, Spanish, Portuguese, English): in contingent allyships and, sometimes, complicity the colonial period and after it, language difference (Chari, 2021; Ramırez, 2020; Shaw, 2013). They cuts distinct swathes of circulatory routes and raise urgent issues around subject positions: who can boundaries across the globe. As Ngugi waThiongʼ o speak for and about communities with such complex (1986) made clear many years ago, language is a key intersections? Each of these intersections (and many component of identity and therefore of place and more) within and around Blackness must be carefully space. Historically, for example, some hugely im- researched within, and from the precise enunciative portant Afro-Brazilian Lusophone voices in positions within, its own distinctive emplacement. Noxolo 1237 Only with this careful attention to specificity can Declaration of conflicting interests Black spatialities be approached through their own The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest highly complex, im/possible spatial logics. with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. Funding IV Conclusion: Im/possible conditions The author(s) received no financial support for the re- of Black geographical search, authorship, and/or publication of this article. knowledge production The conclusion of this short report is that the impacts ORCID iD of the im/possible logics and conditions of a post- Pat Noxolo https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3051-1576 colonial and historically anti-Black discipline are inescapable, making Black Geographies an im/ Notes possible endeavour. However, the decolonial and anti-racist critique that Black Geographies pro- 1. Black will be capitalised throughout, as a political vides, in conjunction with the historical and contem- identity. However, political terminology is a thoroughly porary affordances of globalised and mobile Black unsettled and dynamic terrain. Therefore, wherever I am traditions of thought, both inside and outside the quoting from someone, I will keep their spelling, academy, might enable some even more radical de- whether black or Black. partures in the future. 2. Black in Black Geographies is focused within the dark- A thread running through this report has been the skinned African diaspora. There are those who are im/possible enunciative position of Black Geogra- beginning to question this, introducing more inclusive phies. I have conceded from the outset that Black political notions of Blackness (e.g. Chari, 2021). geographers do not exclusively produce Black Ge- However, given the recentring of whiteness and the ographies. However, despite our small number, the huge ethnic differences, inequalities and forms of main implication of my argument here is that Black colourism that are often obscured by more generalist Geographies should overwhelmingly come from ‘non-white’ or ‘BAME’-type formations, this article Black geographers. Why? As I have set out, the main maintains the specificity of Black as dark-skinned/ critique that Black Geographies mounts is that African diaspora, with all due recognition of the geographical knowledge has historically been ex- many slippages and non-contiguity between the two. clusionary of Black spatial thought and agency: in response, Black Geographies centres Black spatial References thought and agency. Therefore, unless the discipline Abdu M, Assam B, Blagden D, et al. (forthcoming) Black actually recruits and retains enough Black geogra- Sustainability: Fi Wi Road Interns’ Agenda for phers to sustain a field named ‘Black Geographies’, Change. 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Journal

Progress in Human GeographySAGE

Published: Oct 1, 2022

Keywords: Black Geographies; postcolonial; anti-colonial; intersectionality; marginalisation

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