Fugitive Ecologies: Nonhuman Flight and Maroonage in Jamaica

Authors: Johnathan Favini*,
Topics: Ethnicity and Race, Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: Native Species, Black Studies/Ecologies, Maroonage, Ecology, STS
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 10
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Various recent works within Black Studies point to movement or “flight” as a liberatory political orientation, a fugitivity errant to the carceral contemporary and its foundational antiblackness. In contrast, within the ecological sciences, and its programmatic wings like conservation, (species) movement is much maligned, typically glossed as an “invasion” destructive to biodiversity. Though skeptical of some of the nationalist underpinnings of the native species paradigm, even geographers and environmental humanities scholars sometimes reproduce a neat equivalence between species movement and environmental degradation as a way to critique capitalist ecologies.

In this paper, I attend to the relationship between Jamaican Maroons and two alien species, bamboo and mango, that featured critically in the viability of Maroon communities at their outset, and constitute important collaborators to the present. Though both mango and bamboo were brought to Jamaica at the behest of the colonial regime, they soon leave the plantation’s grounds and nurture an anticolonial, Black community that aspires to its abolition. In this, bamboo and mango remind us that far from mere conscripts of colonialism or harbingers of biodiversity loss, newly-arriving species can inaugurate counter-hegemonic becomings or strengthen Black and Indigenous sovereignty. This paper asks how recent theories of fugitivity in Black Studies might help us rethink species belonging in an era of pronounced nonhuman migration. Indeed, as climate change reshuffles nonhuman habitats around the planet, we urgently need models for how to transform unexpected more-than-human encounters toward mutual survival. How can we, taking cues from Maroons, cultivate fugitive ecologies?

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