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“That we may live”: Pesticides, plantations, and environmental racism in the United States South

“That we may live”: Pesticides, plantations, and environmental racism in the United States South This article situates pesticides as technologies marked by both continuities and discontinuities from previous modes of agrarian racism in the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta, a plantation region of the United States South. Attention to the historical-geographical specificity of pesticide intensification, I argue, provides the means to understand pesticide intensification as a mode of what I term agro-environmental racism. Anti-Black racism shaped the politics of pesticides, underpinning policies and material practices that were destructive of both the environment and human welfare in the Delta and beyond. The structures and ideologies of plantation racism helped position the Delta as one of the most pesticide-intensive sectors of U.S. agriculture during the mid-20th century—a particularly consequential period for both the intensification of pesticides and the formation of contemporary environmentalism. Pesticides were defended by agro-industrial interests as technologies supporting agricultural production—and particularly that of cotton, the most pesticide-intensive commodity crop. Simultaneously, they were figured as technologies crucial to a normative way of life. Although pesticides were articulated without explicit mention of race by the 1960s, I argue that the freedom struggle activism of the Mississippi Freedom Labor Union and Fannie Lou Hamer provide context necessary to explain the pesticide politics of the Delta’s plantation bloc. These mobilizations to enact more just, sustainable, and livable geographies were an indictment of a plantation politics which put the health of cotton and profitability of plantations above all else. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space SAGE

“That we may live”: Pesticides, plantations, and environmental racism in the United States South

Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space , Volume 1 (1-2): 25 – Mar 1, 2018

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References (170)

Publisher
SAGE
Copyright
© The Author(s) 2018
ISSN
2514-8486
eISSN
2514-8494
DOI
10.1177/2514848618778085
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

This article situates pesticides as technologies marked by both continuities and discontinuities from previous modes of agrarian racism in the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta, a plantation region of the United States South. Attention to the historical-geographical specificity of pesticide intensification, I argue, provides the means to understand pesticide intensification as a mode of what I term agro-environmental racism. Anti-Black racism shaped the politics of pesticides, underpinning policies and material practices that were destructive of both the environment and human welfare in the Delta and beyond. The structures and ideologies of plantation racism helped position the Delta as one of the most pesticide-intensive sectors of U.S. agriculture during the mid-20th century—a particularly consequential period for both the intensification of pesticides and the formation of contemporary environmentalism. Pesticides were defended by agro-industrial interests as technologies supporting agricultural production—and particularly that of cotton, the most pesticide-intensive commodity crop. Simultaneously, they were figured as technologies crucial to a normative way of life. Although pesticides were articulated without explicit mention of race by the 1960s, I argue that the freedom struggle activism of the Mississippi Freedom Labor Union and Fannie Lou Hamer provide context necessary to explain the pesticide politics of the Delta’s plantation bloc. These mobilizations to enact more just, sustainable, and livable geographies were an indictment of a plantation politics which put the health of cotton and profitability of plantations above all else.

Journal

Environment and Planning E: Nature and SpaceSAGE

Published: Mar 1, 2018

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