Layers of Violence

July 28th, 2020

From agricultural slavery to petroleum, the banks of the Mississippi in Louisiana represent an Anthropocenic space characterized by a slow history of extraction.

The Cancer Alley Anthropocene

In the age of the Anthropocene, the neat sectioning off of historical periods, punctuated by short, sharp shocks in the form of disaster “events” obscures not only a longer view of history but also the often very slowly unfolding and interlinked disasters that have engendered the current era. For example, the contemporary petrochemical industry in Louisiana today occupies the same footprint along the banks of the Mississippi River that was once filled by plantations where enslaved people suffered under a brutal regime of forced labor. In this essay, Scott Knowles, Professor of History at Drexel University whose work focuses on the history of disaster worldwide, and Ashley Rogers, Executive Director of the Whitney Plantation Museum in Louisiana, unfold and critically examine this Anthropocenic space characterized by a long history of extraction, and call attention to the many untold stories underneath these layers of violence.