At its most expansive, my work asks how coloniality is made material: in social forms, in human and nonhuman bodies, and in the landscapes in which we live. With a focus on Black life in the Atlantic world, I conduct historical and ethnographic research on racialization, environmental degradation and the politics of gender and sexuality.
My work on gender and sexuality in the Caribbean has been published in Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism, GLQ: A Journal of Gay and Lesbian Studies, the Caribbean Review of Gender Studies, the New West Indian Guide, and the volume Sex and the Citizen: Interrogating the Caribbean (University of Virginia Press, 2011). With late historian Manning Marable I am co-editor of Transnational Blackness: Navigating the Global Color Line (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).
In Body Burdens: Toxic Endurance and Decolonial Desire in the French Atlantic (in preparation), I reframe the concept of body burden to account for the accretion of toxicities in Martinique, a French territory in the Caribbean. Focused on material exposures to a pesticide called kepone/chlordécone and on immaterial exposures to racism, sexism, and homophobia, Body Burdens asks how contemporary debates about sovereignty on the island are articulated through the prism of ideas about porosity and contamination. In three sections, entitled Sand, Soil and Sediment, I bring over ten years of ethnographic and archival research on the island into conversation with theoretical questions about French coloniality, queer etiologies, anthropocenic pasts and our dystopic futures to come.
I’m currently pursuing two newer projects:
In The Synthetic Atlantic, I take inspiration from Sidney Mintz's classic history of sugar in the Atlantic world (as well as the rejoinders of his critics) to trace the kinds of politics that emerge along one chemical's commodity chain. In sites as diverse as the United States, Martinique, Brazil, Cameroon, and metropolitan France, I follow kepone/chlordécone from its post-World War II synthesis in Hopewell, Virginia to the sites of its use, abuse and eventual interdiction. Because of its status as an endocrine disruptor, a key question for the project asks how exposed communities manage anxieties about the relationship of their racialized and gendered bodies to the physical and social environments transformed by this synthetic presence. An accompanying digital project, Mapping Toxic Entanglements, uses digital maps to link exposure and corporate accountability data (“big data”) with oral histories, photographs, and short films (“small data”) in the interest of facilitating connections among people who might be called kepone's "chemical kin."
Finally, in Detox: Remediation, Reparation, and the Promise of Repair, I ask: once we have taken account of accumulated toxicities and their transgenerational and multiscalar effects, how might we imagine remediation and repair? This project centers ethnographic work on a variety of environmental, political and corporeal projects, that include: bioremediation, land reclamation, and chelation and methylation therapies.
My most recent essays: