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Human Race and Non-human Species: New and Forthcoming Books

  • October 27, 2020
  • 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM (EDT)

Nancy Jacobs, Brown University (moderator) 

Saheed Aderinto, Western Carolina University, “Animality and Colonial Subjecthood in Africa: The Human and Nonhuman Creatures of Nigeria.”

Bénédicte Boisseron, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, "Afro-DogBlackness and the Animal Question."

Yuka Suzuki,  Bard College, "The Nature of Whiteness: Race, Animals, and Nation in Zimbabwe."

Human races and non-human species are intertwined. The Great Chain of Being, the western notion of a hierarchy of living creatures, arrayed species with humans at the apex. Among humans was the ordering of different hues, with lighter-skinned nations at the top and the darkest at the bottom. Whether Black people belonged above or below the line marking animals was a matter of discussion. More recent discourse in animal rights and conservation has continued this association of human races and non-human species by comparing factory farming with the enslavement of Africans, by associating indigenous hunting with animality, and by presenting white conservationists as saviors or as colonizers. In this current moment of reflection on the pervasiveness of race, its interplay with species in environmental thought merits attention. 

This webinar brings together three authors of recent and forthcoming books about human race and non-human species. Saheed Aderinto of Western Carolina University will speak on his forthcoming book “Animality and Colonial Subjecthood in Africa: The Human and Nonhuman Creatures of Nigeria” (Ohio University Press, 2021). Drawing on rich evidence from a critically important case, this work makes the assertion that animals, too, were colonial subjects.  Next, Bénédicte Boisseron, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, will present a synopsis of Afro-Dog: Blackness and the Animal Question (Columbia University Press, 2018). Boisseron investigates the relationship between race and the animal in the Americas and the Black Atlantic, exposing a hegemonic system that measures the value of life. Finally, Yuka Suzuki of Bard College addresses The Nature of Whiteness: Race, Animals, and Nation in Zimbabwe (University of Washington Press 2017). Suzuki’s work on the intertwining of race and nature in post-independence Zimbabwe explores how conservation has been a political resource for white farmers, even as the killing of Cecil the Lion by an American trophy hunter exposed the tensions in their claims. 

The webinar will begin with presentations by each speaker and conclude with half an hour of questions from listeners.

The American Society for Environmental History will sponsor a series of webinars around Race and the Environment during Fall 2020. The webinars will capture and expand some of the exciting sessions from the March 2020 meeting that ASEH was forced to cancel to the COVID pandemic. ASEH and its members are eager to engage in this transformative cultural moment by sharing their scholarship and discussing its larger implications.  The 2020 Program Committee and the Committee on Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity are organizing the webinars. 

Sponsored by the Initiative for Environmental Humanities at Brown (EHAB) under the auspices of the Cogut Institute for the Humanities at Brown University.

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