Black Matters

Black matters are spatial matters. And while we all produce, know, and negotiate space—albeit on different terms—geographies in the diaspora are accentuated by racist paradigms of the past and their ongoing hierarchical patterns. I have turned to geography and black geographic subjects not to provide a corrective story, nor to “find” and “discover” lost geographies.


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Rather, I want to suggest that space and place give black lives meaning in a world that has, for the most part, incorrectly deemed black populations and their attendant geographies as “ungeographic” and/or philosophically undeveloped. That black lives are necessarily geographic, but also struggle with discourses that erase and despatialize their sense of place, is where I begin to conceptualize geography. I therefore follow the insights of Kath- leen Kirby, noting that the language and concreteness of geography—with its overlapping physical, metaphorical, theoretical, and experiential con- tours—must be conceptualized as always bringing into view material ref- erents, external, three-dimensional spaces, and the actions taking place in space, as they overlap with subjectivities, imaginations, and stories.4 I want to suggest that we take the language and the physicality of geogra- phy seriously, that is, as an “imbrication of material and metaphorical space,”5 so that black lives and black histories can be conceptualized and talked about in new ways. And part of the work involved in thinking about black geographies is to recognize that the overlaps between materi- ality and language are long-standing in the diaspora, and that the legacy of racial displacement, or erasure, is in contradistinction to and there- fore evidence of, an ongoing critique of both geography and the “ungeo- graphic.” Consequently, if there is a push to forge a conceptual connection between material or concrete spaces, language, and subjectivity, openings are made possible for envisioning an interpretive alterable world, rather than a transparent and knowable world.