A Radical Geography Community
In this lecture, Lisa Lowe discusses several kinds of social space in the exploration of transhemispheric links between Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Reading across archives, canons, and continents, Lowe connects narratives of freedom overcoming slavery to the expansion of empire, observing how abstract promises of freedom often obscure their embeddedness within colonial conditions. Race and social difference, she contends, are enduring remainders of colonial processes through which “the human” is universalized and “freed” by liberal forms, while the peoples who create the conditions of possibility for that freedom may be assimilated or forgotten. Lowe makes reference to material culture to suggest alternative methods for interpreting the past.
Friday April 7th, from 5:20pm to 7:00pm, in Room 304, Hynes Convention Center, Third Level; the Lecture will be followed by a drinks reception sponsored by Antipode’s publisher, Wiley.
Next year, in 2018, we’ll be publishing Antipode’s 50th volume. As the journal approaches this milestone, we’ve been trying to look at its past without illusions (as we try to look at the present without becoming disillusioned). Neither unquestioningly bound to what’s come before, nor wilfully distant and adrift from it, we are inspired by the radicalism of the 1960s – and the range of struggles that reimagined place, space, and geography – while continuing to push the discipline’s radical and critical edge in a number of ways.
Clearly standing out from Antipode’s first issue is its anti-imperialist politics. Centre stage in 1969 were the Vietnam War and South African and Israeli apartheid (Blaut; Peet); hearing and listening to the demands of the most marginalized (Morrill); humanizing people cast beyond the pale by the state (Donaldson; Jarrett and Wisner); engaging with progressive movements that centralize racialized, gendered and other communities (Antipodean Staff Reporters); reading against the grain of dominant texts (Stewart); and questioning the means and ends of knowledges (Anderson; Kates; Stea).
One of the things that Antipode as a radical journal of geography arguably does well is make the connections and interdependencies between these matters of concern more legible. As much as Issue 1 does, we hope every issue, taken as a whole, or in the round, invites a comparative gesture from readers, compelling them to trace “distinctly situated yet connected” processes and relations intersecting and articulating in different ways, in different places. And at different times. Looking back to 1969, it’s clear to us that forms of domination and oppression – strategies of resistance and alternatives, too – “endure and are rearticulated” here in the present.
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The words borrowed are our AAG speaker, Lisa Lowe’s. Her brilliant historical-geographical work is exemplary in the way that it carefully demonstrates the relationships between projects of violence, exclusion and segregation, dispossession, exploitation and subordination, showing them to be “imbricated processes” rather than “sequential events” – continuous across space, ongoing through time – while reckoning with their differences. In this “virtual issue” of Antipode, we’d like to introduce Lisa and her work, and offer 13 papers pulled from our recent issues; together we hope they serve as a primer or further reading to the 2017 Antipode AAG Lecture. All papers will be freely available for the rest of the year.
Lisa is Distinguished Professor of English and Humanities at Tufts University, where she also directs the Center for the Humanities (which fosters interdisciplinary work in comparative literature, comparative religion, world history, philosophy, anthropology, and the arts) and co-founded the Consortium of Studies in Race, Colonialism, and Diaspora (which brings together Africana, American, Asian American, Colonialism and Latino Studies). She is the author of books on colonialism, migration, and globalization: Critical Terrains: French and British Orientalisms (Cornell University Press, 1991), Immigrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics (Duke University Press, 1996) and The Intimacies of Four Continents (Duke University Press, 2015); coeditor, with David Lloyd, of The Politics of Culture in the Shadow of Capital (Duke University Press, 1997); and coeditor, with Jack Halberstam, of the Perverse Modernities book series published by Duke University Press.
Lisa joined Tufts in 2012, after teaching at the University of California, San Diego, and Yale University. She studied European intellectual history at Stanford University, and French literature and critical theory at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and began as a scholar of French and comparative literature. Her research and teaching has since focused on literatures and cultures of encounter that emerge from histories of colonialism, migration, and globalization. It has been supported by fellowships from the Guggenheim, Rockefeller, and Mellon Foundations, and the American Council of Learned Societies, and she has held distinguished visitor positions at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, and the School of Advanced Study at the University of London.
The Intimacies of Four Continents anatomises the connections and interdependencies between the emergence of European liberalism, settler colonialism in the Americas, the transatlantic African slave trade, and trade in the East Indies and China in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, teasing out the relationship between narratives of freedom overcoming slavery and the expansion of empire, between abstract promises of freedom and colonial conditions. The “archive of liberalism” – its foundational literary, cultural, and political philosophical texts – is connected to, shown to be dependant on, the archives of the colonial state. Liberalism’s discourses of citizenship, rights, wage labour, free trade, and sovereignty are linked to, shown to be embedded within, forms, strategies and projects attributing difference to subjects, dividing regions, separating populations, precisely by placing them in relation to liberal principles. Liberalism doesn’t “contradict” settler colonialism, the slave trade, and so on, but rather “accommodates” them; far from “contravening”, they “permit”. In this sense, the book contends, processes like settler colonialism constitute the very conditions of possibility of liberal principles. The latter were dependant on the former; as the latter were implicated, employed, in the former, so they became established, and too often the affirmation of liberal principles entails the forgetting of violence, exclusion and segregation, dispossession, exploitation and subordination–that which they were embedded within.
Immigrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics similarly focuses on the dialectics of affirmation and forgetting – those involved in the production of the US citizen in the 19th and 20th centuries. Race and social difference have been put to work over a century and a half; the citizen has been defined and redefined over and against the immigrant, those who the state excludes. As the state has managed the contradictions of economy and polity, different groups have been universalised and “freed” at different times. A history of exploitation, disenfranchisement and internment is disavowed when some are assimilated and new others are marked as “foreign”. Through the state, laws exclude and exploit and acts of repeal overturn; new laws exclude others, repeating racialisation, pulling within, then marking “alien” and pushing outside, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Mexican and other Asian and Latin American immigrants over time. Now excluded, exploited, disenfranchised and interned; now equal and “emancipated” through a dialectic of affirmation and forgetting. The mid-century Civil Rights movement, the book argues, worked “by demanding that the state extend its promise of freedom and opportunity … it focused attention on the fundamental condition that the American nation has been built on the exploitation and political exclusion of these populations … it addressed civil society and the state in terms of that promise”, demanding more than the freedoms of the market, more than an opportunity to be exploited.
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This is just a taste of Lisa Lowe’s powerful work. The Antipode essays below engage with its themes it in different ways; as a collection, we hope they draw out the fibres so as to form a continuous thread, a shared conversation across disciplinary borders. The first four, by Julie Tomiak, Shiri Pasternak, Dawn Hoogeveen, and Levi Gahman, tackle settler colonialism, exploring the history and present condition of dispossession and displacement of Indigenous peoples in North America. Tomiak’s focus is on the production of urban space through processes of affirmation and forgetting; reserve formation is a violent process, employing “racialised dichotomies” and ruthless policing, but it’s not uncontested. The pressure exerted and limits set through struggle are very real. Pasternak examines a case of land rights struggles in which the issue of ownership collides with inhabitants’ claims of sovereignty – in which Indigenous forms of life are elided when the state “empowers” in limited and limiting ways. Like Tomiak, though, Pasternak is alive to the incompleteness of the state’s ambitions – to the power of residual and emergent Indigenous cultures. These cultures are put to the test, Hoogeveen shows, in debates over the practice of staking a claim to sub-surface property where they’re forced to tackle dominant ideologies of ownership. These ideologies offer an opportunity for enfranchisement, but only on a restricted basis; they’re a language that, like all others, sets traps. Finally, Gahman takes us south from Canada to the US in his pursuit of white “hetero-settler” masculinities reproducing gendered and racialised social relations in unceded territories. His ethnography and interviews reveal the everyday practices through which history is negated; legitimation, the fostering of a sense of entitlement, is in many ways banal, to be sure, but the erasure of enclosures past and present is also tenuous, and demands continual reafﬁrmation.
The next five essays take on ideas of citizenship and belonging in the wake of settler colonialism, transatlantic slavery, and empire, moving from past to present, from North America to Europe, and back again. Mona Domosh investigates how and with what consequences African-American women in the US South came to be “targeted” by the state, subject to/subjects of techniques of governance, in the early 20th century. Industrialisation pulling people from rural to urban areas and from the South to North (a pull strengthened by decreasing immigration associated with rising xenophobia around WWI) made the black home a pressing matter of concern – a place to be modernised, “civilised”, to weaken any push and “improve” remaining labour. The loss of workers constituted a potential crisis, and state intervention, the project of inclusion, was seen as a solution to the problem. The expansions and enforcements of the polity’s borders, given the vicissitudes of the economy, looms large in the next paper, also, where Caroline Nagel and Patricia Ehrkamp engage with discussions of “deservingness” and “merit” among white Christian communities in the present-day US South. Do unauthorised immigrants merit a place (they’re “good citizens” as workers but not citizens proper)? Do asylum seekers deserve to be welcomed (or is the door open only to skilled migrants)? Who is worthy? Are they able to contribute, willing to conform? Deservingness and merit, it seems, must be earned; the immigrant must continually demonstrate their ability and willingness, their worthiness, in accordance with hegemonic (though inconsistent and contradictory) constructions of the citizen. We cross the Atlantic with Claire Hancock, travelling to the French banlieues to find female collectives struggling against police violence. Their struggle is complicated by a normative “state feminism” that is being used to stigmatise working-class neighbourhoods and their (racialised) male inhabitants. In this state strategy, first employed in colonial Algeria, the empowerment of women is instrumentalised in the control of urban areas. Gender equality, for the state, is a problem in, and only in, working-class neighbourhoods; the state creates space in which women can speak, as long as they speak against their male inhabitants and in doing so justify interventions in places of postcolonial immigration. However, the groups Hancock works with subvert this space, speaking not of local sexism, but of racist urban management and policing. Similarly focusing on the legacies of empire, the last two papers here reveal how settler colonialism is enmeshed with transatlantic slavery and its afterlife. Tiffany King draws attention to the engendering of black labour through plantation geographies, exploring the ways in which bodies and lives were presented–“captured”–in travelogues, maps, and the like in the past, as well as the ways in which they might be re-presented for the future by emphasising their ever-changing and unpredictable nature as a virtue. Through new cultural practices, corporeality and blackness can be reclaimed and repossessed. Magie Ramírez’s essay, too, looks at how histories of slavery mark the present, investigating the limits to much food justice work that proceeds as if food space weren’t always already racialised, as if food and farming imaginaries aren’t haunted by the spectres of slavery. The multiple meanings of life on the land and labouring bodies, she argues, must be reinscribed in food geographies–the persistence of traumas “past” must be tackled.
Our last four papers, by Julie Guthman, Francis Collins, Sallie Yea, and Anna Stanley, deal with processes of “othering” – the shifting relations between subjects proper and bare life. Guthman parses recent debates over the use of chemical fumigants in Californian agriculture, noting the emergence of a separation between issues of sickness (“fumigants are dangerous”) and unemployment (“fumigants are necessary”), between “lives” and “livelihoods”. What rides high in these debates is not the health and well-being of citizens, but, rather, the participation in the wage economy of disposable workers: “generally racially marked subjects who are useful as labouring bodies but whose future is not protected precisely because of the existence of surplus populations, as well as legacies of colonial racialisation”. Collins, too, investigates the subjectification of migrants and emergent divisions between citizens and disposable labour power. At times migrants in Seoul are subject to little if any recognition – they’re interpellated as workers as opposed to subjects with a stake, an interest, a future even, in society – and at times they’re subject to much – to incarceration and deportation, or settlement and assimilation. We stay in East Asia with Yea, who draws attention to the ways in which states construct migrant vulnerability “through modes of differential classification that sort legitimate/authentic subjects of protection and redress from those who are undeserving”. Some exploited migrants are classified as “trafficking victims” in Singapore, others as “illegitimate claimants”. Through techniques of classification, Yea argues, the state carefully manages precarious labour regimes, rendering some conditions “mundane” (workers might be trafficked, brought to the city-state, but not “trafficked enough”–their circumstances deemed ordinary, acceptable, unexceptional, and thus made invisible, excluded from discourse). Finally, Stanley presents a case of First Nations labour in Canada’s uranium extraction industry. Accumulation by dispossession and associated environmental destruction in the mid 20th century created a readily subsumable population. Through the state, Stanley argues, land and labour were “used up” or “wasted”–put to purposes other than sustaining living beings. Land became de jure that from which uranium is extracted, and labour de facto that which extracts, and this expropriation of both slowly but surely degraded them, rendering them incapable of sustaining living beings.
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Many thanks from Andy to Lisa Lowe for sharing her work and to Katherine McKittrick for a generous reading of the text, and from all at Antipode to Wiley’s Rhiannon Rees for her peerless help with the lecture series and virtual issues.
Andy Kent, March 2017
 “The comparative gesture” is Jennifer Robinson’s term. See Robinson J (2011) Cities in a world of cities: The comparative gesture. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 35(1):1-23
 For those who will be in Boston, don’t miss Lisa’s review of the Museum of Fine Arts’ recent exhibition, “Made in the Americas: The New World Discovers Asia”, which offers reflections on archives, ports and museums, focusing on New England, particularly Boston and Salem, as a “central location in the circuits of trade that linked four continents”.
All papers will be freely available for the rest of the year…
– Contesting the Settler City: Indigenous Self-Determination, New Urban Reserves, and the Neoliberalization of Colonialism
– How Capitalism Will Save Colonialism: The Privatization of Reserve Lands in Canada
– Sub-surface Property, Free-entry Mineral Staking, and Settler Colonialism in Canada
– White Settler Society as Monster: Rural Southeast Kansas, Ancestral Osage (Wah-Zha-Zhi) Territories, and the Violence of Forgetting
– Practising Development at Home: Race, Gender, and the “Development” of the American South
– Deserving Welcome? Immigrants, Christian Faith Communities, and the Contentious Politics of Belonging in the US South
– Feminism from the Margin: Challenging the Paris/Banlieues Divide
– The Labor of (Re)reading Plantation Landscapes Fungible(ly)
– The Elusive Inclusive: Black Food Geographies and Racialized Food Spaces
– Lives Versus Livelihoods? Deepening the Regulatory Debates on Soil Fumigants in California’s Strawberry Industry
– Migration, the Urban Periphery, and the Politics of Migrant Lives
– Trafficked Enough? Missing Bodies, Migrant Labour Exploitation, and the Classification of Trafficking Victims in Singapore
– Wasted Life: Labour, Liveliness, and the Production of Value