From Plantations to Petrochemicals

August 22nd, 2019

What can the history of slavery tell us about the future of the Anthropocene?

Slavery, Memory and Justice along the Mississippi

Jason Ludwig’s Traveler Project draws from the extensive research he has conducted into the history of American slavery as it intersects with the Anthropocene. Building on this body of work, he will relate it wider issues of environmental violence in the region.

My journey down the river is an opportunity to more explicitly engage with personal research undertaken regarding the place of American slavery within the history of the Anthropocene. The location of Jackson, Mississippi is one of significance in the development of the American South’s slave-based commodity economy. While in the field, I will engage with a line of questioning that builds on work completed during two field campuses in St. Louis and New Orleans, which I helped to coordinate. Core questions of this research include: How was the environmental violence wrought on the land and riverscapes of the region by plantation agriculture also registered in the bodies of slaves and their descendants? How are these tied to the later devastations caused by the petrochemical industry? And what can we learn from this history to contribute broader strategies for recovery and healing, surviving and growing in the Anthropocene?