Swarthmore College

Katherine McKittrick suggests that “our intellectual task” is to “get in touch with the materiality of our analytical worlds” in Dear Science and Other Stories (Duke, 2021). That is, McKittrick identifies the particular entanglement of materiality and abstracted terms of inquiry that has been on the one hand, a special area of interdisciplinary interest for Black Studies and, on the other, a means by which Black ways of knowing have been rendered as ungeographic sites.

This interdisciplinary interest interrupts the limits placed on inquiries into the activities of academic disciplines, while it shifts the stakes of investigations into what might otherwise be viewed as wholly conceptual matters. In this passage from the story “(I Entered the Lists),” McKittrick outlines an example of how analytical worlds shape material ones in an academic discipline:

Since about the mid-1990s, and in human geography alone, there has been an expanding and expansive production of dictionaries, encyclopedias, and reference primers written in English…These sources of geographic knowledge do not pay close attention to geographies of race and racism or what we might call alternative geographies: the Middle Passage, W.E.B. Du Bois’s urban studies, Toni Morrison’s site of memory are not to be found. Sometimes key thinkers of race are included (Gayatri Spivak, bell hooks, Edward Said). Of course, opening up the possibility of nonwhite geographic knowledge is not the point of the texts–they are designed to outline and therefore fashion a particular geographic story.

The production of knowledge within the discipline of geography is closely related to the discipline’s history of positivism and exclusion. While many human geographers, anxiously and not, name legacies of whiteness, colonialism, and heterosexism that inhabit their areas of study, the production of the discipline–as disciplined–thrives…That is, the knowledge that is documented and collected and listed is tied to a legacy of colonialism, extraction, and cataloguing.

We look forward to our conversation with McKittrick and Nick Mitchell moderated by Nina Johnson on February 23rd at 7pm EST on Zoom. You can register here.

About the Author

Andy Hines is the Associate Director of the Aydelotte Foundation. He studies models of the university posed by Black writers and Black social movements, as well as the significant but understudied contributions of Black writers to literary criticism and theory.

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February 11, 2021
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