Making the Invisible Visible

Telling Stories to Animate Environmental Injustices

  • Ellen Anna Kohl St. Mary's College of Maryland
Keywords: Critical environmental justice, Black geographies, storytelling, environmental racism

Abstract

The women of the Newtown Florist Club (NFC), a social and environmental justice organization located in Gainesville, Georgia, use storytelling both in their day-to-day lives and through their political activism to contest the environmental and social injustices they experience. In this paper, I draw on Black geographies and Black feminist storytelling to demonstrate how critical environmental justice scholars can use stories to interrogate systemic environmental injustices. I integrate this theoretical framework with the stories told by NFC members to contend that stories have both theoretical and methodological saliency. Stories facilitate an integration of the structural with lived experiences by highlighting (1) the contradictions activist navigate, (2) the ways activists draw support and motivation from connections to people and place, and (3) the ways activists use the past to connect the personal and political to imagine and prefigure new futures. In conclusion, I reflect on listening to activists’ stories as one way for researchers to operationalize critical environmental justice.

References

Amoah, Jewel. 1997. “Narrative: The Road to Black Feminist Theory.” Berkeley Women’s Law Journal 12, 84-63.

Banks-Wallace, JoAnne. 2002. “Talk that Talk: Storytelling and Analysis Rooted in African American Oral Tradition.” Qualitative Health Research 12 (3), 410-426.

Bledsoe, Adam L, LaToya Eaves and Brian Williams. 2017. “Introduction: Black Geographies in and of the United States South.” Southeastern Geographer 57(1), 6-11.

Brickell, Katherine and Bradley Garrett. (2015). “Storytelling Domestic Violence: Feminist Politics of Participatory Video in Cambodia.” ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies 14(3), 928-953.

Browdy, Ronisha. 2018. “Patrisse Khan-Cullors’s And When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir: Storytelling as Black Feminist Counter-attack on Mis-labelling of Black Identity” Prose Studies 40(1-2), 15-39.

Cameron, Emilie. 2012. “New Geographies of Story and Storytelling.” Progress in Human Geography 36(5), 573-592.

Crawford, Madyson. 2019. “An Ode to Belonging: Southern Black Women’s Politics of Belonging Through Storytelling.” GeoHumanities 5(2), 369-375.

Collins, Patricia Hill. 2000. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. (2nd Edition) New York: Routledge.

Collins, Patricia Hill. 1998. Fighting words: Black Women and the Search for Justice. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Ducre, Kishi Animashaun. 2018. “The Black Feminist Spatial Imagination and an Intersectional Environmental Justice.” Environmental Sociology 4(1), 22-35.

 Eaves, LaToya E. 2017. “Black Geographic Possibilities: On a Queer Black South.” Southeastern Geographer 57(1), 80-95.

Fulton, DoVeanna. 2006. Speaking Power: Black Feminist Orality in Women's Narratives of Slavery. Albany: SUNY Press.

Goodling, Erin. 2021. “Urban political ecology from below: Producing a “peoples’ history” of the Portland Harbor.” Antipode 53(3), 745-769.

Harris-Lacewell, Melissa. 2004. Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought. Princeton and Oxford: University of Princeton Press.

hooks, bell. 2008. Belonging: A Culture of  Place. New York and London: Routledge.

Houston, Donna. 2013. “Environmental Justice Storytelling: Angels and Isotopes at Yucca Mountain, Nevada.” Antipode 45(2), 417-435.

Inwood, Josh. 2015. “Neoliberal Racism: The ‘Southern Strategy’ and the Expanding Geographies of White Supremacy.” Social & Cultural Geography 16(4), 407-423.

Isoke, Zenele. 2011. “The Politics of Homemaking.” Transforming Anthropology 19(2), 117-130.

Joshi, Shangrila, Priscilla McCutcheon, and Elizabeth L. Sweet. 2015. “Visceral Geographies of Whiteness and Invisible Microaggressions.” ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies 14(1), 299-323.

King, Martin Luther. 1957. “The Role of the Church in Facing the Nation’s Chief Moral Dilemma.” Paper presented at Conference on Christian Faith and Human Relations, Nashville.

Kohl, Ellen. 2015. Permanence of the Struggle: Race, Gender, and Environmental Justice in Gainesville, Georgia. PhD diss., University of Georgia, Athens, GA.

Kohl, Ellen and Priscilla McCutcheon. 2015. “Kitchen Table Reflexivity: Negotiating Positionality Through Everyday Talk.” Gender, Place & Culture 22 (6), 747-763.

Mahtani, Minelle. 2017. “Fate, Fury, Forgetting, Failure.” Keynote at Critical Geographies Conference: Envisioning the Futures of Critical Geographies, October 27: State College, PA October.

May, Reuben A. Buford. 2001. Talking at Trena's: Everyday Conversations at an African American Tavern. New York: NYU Press.

McCutcheon, Priscilla. 2019. “Fannie Lou Hamer's Freedom Farms and Black Agrarian Geographies.” Antipode 51(1), 207-224.

McCutcheon, Priscilla. 2015. “Food, Faith, and the Everyday Struggle for Black Urban Community.” Social & Cultural Geography 16(4), 385-406.

McKittrick, Katherine. 2011. “On Plantations, Prisons, and a Black Sense of Place.” Social & Cultural Geography 12(8), 947-963.

McKittrick, Katherine. 2006. Demonic Grounds: Black Women and the Cartographies of Struggle. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

McKittrick, Katherine and Clyde Woods, eds. 2007. Black Geographies and the Politics of Place. Cambridge: South End Press.

Moss, Pamela, ed. 2002. Feminist Geography in Practice: Research and Methods. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.

Morrison Toni. 1992. Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination. New York: Vintage.

Mullings, Beverley. 1999. “Insider or Outsider, Both or Neither: Some Dilemmas of Interviewing in a Cross-Cultural Setting.” Geoforum 30 (4), 337-50.

Pellow, David Naguib. 2018. What is Critical Environmental Justice? Cambridge: Polity Press.

Pezzullo, Phaedra C. 2007. Toxic Tourism: Rhetorics of Pollution, Travel, and Environmental Justice. Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press.

Polletta, Francesca. 2006. It Was Like a Fever: Storytelling in Protest and Politics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Prokkola, Eeva-Kaisa. 2014. “Using Narrativity as Methodological Tool.” ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies 13(3), 442-449.

Prez, Susan. 2002. Conceiving a Peaceful World: Women’s Body Wisdom, Leadership, and Peacemaking. PhD diss., Claremont School of Theology, Claremont, CA.

Pulido, Laura. 2018. “Geographies of Race and Ethnicity III: Settler Colonialism and Nonnative People of Color.” Progress in Human Geography 42(2), 309-318.

Pulido, Laura. 2017. “Geographies of Race and Ethnicity II: Environmental Racism, Racial Capitalism and State-Sanctioned Violence.” Progress in Human Geography 41(4), 524-533.

Pulido, Laura. 2015. “Geographies of Race and Ethnicity I: White Supremacy vs White Privilege in Environmental Racism Research.” Progress in Human Geography 39(6), 809-817.

Pulido, Laura. 2000. “Rethinking Environmental Racism: White Privilege and Urban Development in Southern California.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 90(1), 12-40.

Reese, Ashanté. 2019a. Black Food Geographies: Race, Self-Reliance, and Food Access in Washington. Chapel Hill: UNC Press Books.

Reese, Ashanté. 2019b “‘There Ain’t Nothing in Deanwood’: Toward an Anthropology of Food Access and ‘Nothingness.’” Paper presented at St. Mary’s College of Maryland Visiting Anthropologist Series, St. Mary’s City, October.

Reese, Ashanté. 2018. “‘We Will Not Perish; We’re Going to Keep Flourishing’: Race, Food Access, and Geographies of Self‐Reliance.” Antipode 50(2), 407-424.

Roskie, Jamie Baker, Ela Orenstein, Jamie Henderson, Michelle A Keith, Jesse J Ehnert, and Kathryn Wurzel. 2008. Health, Environment, and Quality of Life Impacts: Newtown Community, Gainesville, GA. Atlanta: Newfields, LLC.

Rose, Gillian. 1997. “Situating Knowledges: Positionality, Reflexivities and Other Tactics.” Progress in Human Geography 21(3), 305-320.

Ross, Loretta. 2010. “Storytelling in Sistersong and the Voices of Feminism Project.” In Telling Stories to Change the World: Global Voices on the Power of Narrative to Build Community and Make Social Justice Claims, edited by Rickie Solinger, Madeline Fox, and Kayhan Irani, 65-74. New York: Routledge.

Sium, Aman and Eric Ritskes. 2013. “Speaking Truth to Power: Indigenous Storytelling as an Act of Living Resistance.” Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society 2(1), I-X.

Spears, Ellen Griffith. 1998. The Newtown Story: One Community's Fight for Environmental Justice. Atlanta, GA: The Center for Democratic Renewal and The Newtown Florist Club.

Spelman College. 2017. The Spelman Independent Scholars Oral History Project. https://www.spelman.edu/student-life/leads-at-spelman/spelman-independent-scholars. (last accessed December 3, 2019)

Smith, Kate. 2015. “Stories Told by, for, and about Women Refugees: Engendering Resistance.” ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies 14(2), 461-469.

Tagore, Proma. 2009. Shapes of Silence: Writing by Women of Colour and the Politics of Testimony Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's Press.

Wright, Willie Jamaal. 2018. “As Above, so Below: Anti‐Black Violence as Environmental Racism.” Antipode 53(3), 791-809.
Published
2021-12-16
How to Cite
Kohl, E. (2021). Making the Invisible Visible. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 21(1), 33-48. Retrieved from https://acme-journal.org/index.php/acme/article/view/2091