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Winter 23 Theme: Black Ecologies and Placemaking


Ashanté Reese


Hybrid Event


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"What Remains?: Black Ecologies, Speculative Fieldnotes, and the Building of New Worlds"


What changes if our ethnographic or research practices are reconceptualized as simultaneously being archival practices that capture disappearing Black ecologies in real time before (or as?) they become traces of themselves? What if our ways of naming, documenting, capturing, knowing place were not primarily constructed as research practices at all but as contributions to a different kind of worldmaking—one that we may or may not live to see? What if our work is guided not by saving or preserving a space forever but rather by building the conceptual and methodological tools that will help catapult us into future worlds? Guided by Octavia Butler’s fiction as a model, this talk explores these questions as one way to (re)think disappearing Black geographies in our research and activism.


Dr. Ashanté Reese is assistant professor of African and African Diaspora Studies at The University of Texas at Austin. She earned a PhD in Anthropology from American University and a bachelors of arts in History with a minor in African American studies from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. Broadly speaking, Dr. Reese works at the intersection of critical food studies and Black geographies, examining the ways Black people produce and navigate food-related spaces despite anti-Blackness. Animated by the question, who and what survives?, much of Dr. Reese’s work has focused on the everyday strategies Black people employ while navigating inequity. Her first book, Black Food Geographies: Race, Self-Reliance, and Food Access in Washington, D.C., takes up these themes through an ethnographic exploration of anti-Blackness and food access. Black Food Geographies won the 2020 Best Monograph Award from the Association for the Study of Food and Society. Her second book, Black Food Matters: Racial Justice in the Wake of Food Justice, is a collection co-edited with Hanna Garth that explores the geographic, social, and cultural dimensions of food in Black life across the U.S. Her work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, and the Mellon foundation and has been published in a variety of academic and public venues: Antipode, Human Geography, the Oxford American, and Gravy Magazine among others.


Currently, Dr. Reese is working on a project tentatively titled, The Carceral Life of Sugar in which she explores the spatial, economic, and metaphorical resonance of the plantation in the early 20th century convict lease system in Texas and the ongoing carceral significance of sugar in everyday (Black) life.


The "Unarchiving Blackness" project is supported by a Sawyer Seminar grant from the Mellon Foundation."

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