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Heritage and Environmental Racism in the Anthropocene

Lucy Bond (University of Westminster)
Aaron Bryant (Smithsonian Institution)
Archives and Museums
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Short abstract:

Convened by academics from the University of Westminster and curatorial experts from the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture, this panel will consider the pathways and barriers to commemorating environmental racism.

Long abstract:

As Katherine Yusof (2019) has argued, the umbrella concept of the Anthropocene conceals a long history of racialised violence. While the origins of the Anthropocene can be traced directly to the slave economies that fuelled European imperialism and later American expansionism, the environmental impacts of today's carbon economy are felt most powerfully by minority and low-income communities across the global north and south. However, the phenomenon of environmental racism remains an under-discussed issue. There are many reasons for this. Barbara Allen (2003) notes that low-income and minority communities often do not possess the social, political, or economic capital to make their suffering visible. Dorceta E. Taylor (2014) highlights the way in which insidious zoning practices have systemically re-entrenched residential segregation and silently exposed black and Latino communities to environmental hazards in the United States. Meanwhile, Rob Nixon (2011) contends that we lack the right frames of representation and remembrance to render "slow violence", like climate change and environmental contamination, visible. Forging a dialogue between curatorial and academic specialists from the US and UK, this panel aims to facilitate discussion about the pathways and barriers to commemorating environmental injustice. In particular, we focus upon the role that cultural and heritage institutions might play in revealing and resisting past, present, and future forms of environmental racism.

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