Fugitive Ecologies: Maroonage, Indigeneity, and Nature Conservation in Jamaica

Author: ORCID icon orcid.org/0000-0002-3993-8827
Favini, Johnathan, Anthropology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Igoe, Jim, University of Virginia

This dissertation seeks to connect two complex, socioecological phenomena—the plantation and climate change—tracking the weighty legacies of the former in contemporary environments and social life. Ethnographically, the project centers on Jamaican Maroons and conservationists who are collaboratively leading a burgeoning movement against bauxite mining in the island’s interior. In the context of this movement, and with their treaty lands threatened by mining, Maroons have begun to identify as Indigenous, even though they are commonly understood as the descendants of escaped, enslaved Africans. One major facet of the dissertation attends to the ways Maroons negotiate attachments to Africa, political affinities with others racialized as Black, and articulations of Indigenous belonging to Jamaica. I propose that Maroons locate Indigeneity, primarily, in their ways of interacting with one another and with the land, rather than autochthonous belonging to place, challenging popular and scholarly accounts that hold Indigeneity and Blackness/Diaspora as mutually exclusive. Moreover, I investigate Indigeneity’s political affordances and geographic potentialities in the Caribbean, contending that Maroons marshal Indigeneity to both critique Jamaica’s Brown middle-class hegemony and to reinscribe Caribbean landscapes within popular imaginaries. In a second set of chapters, I explore the different environmental philosophies Maroons and conservationists each mobilize in caring for those spaces threatened by mining. I trace the debts certain conservationist concepts like the “native species” owe to the intellectual architecture of the plantation, while pointing to Maroons’ ways of relating to nonhumans as touchstones for alternative environmental ethics, and in that, ways of being human. Drawing on Black Studies, Native Studies, and more-than-human scholarship from across the environmental humanities and social sciences, I articulate a theory of “fugitive ecologies:” both real spaces and bodies of knowledge that, like Maroons’ ancestors, depart from the plantation’s order.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Anthropology, Race, Indigeneity, Maroonage, Conservation, The Environment
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