Zoom talk on "Black Soil" by Kimberly Bain
This talk turns to the minor Black matter soil to map a provisional theory of Black alchemy. Black alchemy names an erotic and ethical orientation toward the Dead and dead matter. Sifting the metonymic, metaphysical, and material properties between (Black fleshly) matter and (earthly) matters, I argue for an attention to the erotic relations between Blackness, soil, and Dead (matter). These relations disrupt and refuse the circuits of racial capitalism that establish both Black bodies and soil as a site of resource depletion and commodification. Turning to the syncretic knowledge system of Obeah and tinctures of grave dirt; Cachexia Africana and the histories of dirt eating; and the 2019 performance and installation Dirt Eater by Kiyan Williams, I ask: what are the practices of those who’ve collectively lived the end of the world and therefore are already dreaming the messy, dirty end of this one?
Kimberly Bain is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English Language and Literatures at the University of British Columbia—Vancouver. In her scholarly and critical-creative work, her most pressing and urgent concerns have consolidated around questions of the history, theory, and philosophy of Blackness.
She is currently at work on two scholarly monographs. The first, entitled On Black Breath, traces a genealogy of breathing and Blackness in the United States. It takes seriously the charge of "I can't breathe" and considers breath as more than the mere metaphor—rather, as also a somatic and sociopolitical phenomenon that has resonances in the wake of enslavement to the contemporary moment.
Her second book, Dirt: Soil and Other Dark Matter, turns to dirt for understanding how Blackness—a series of relations that have emerged as part of extractive and accumulative logics—has shaped global considerations of the Anthropocene and refused the extractive relations of racial capitalism. Her writing has appeared in The Journal of Literature and Medicine, Protean Magazine, capilano review, Studies in Romanticism, Qui Parle, and the book Lastgaspism: Art and Survival in the Age of the Pandemic. She has essays forthcoming on Blackness and soil, Black holes, pettiness, and other topics in several edited collections and exhibition catalogs.
Prior to her time at UBC, Bain was the John Holmes Assistant Professor in the Humanities in the Department of English at Tufts University. She earned a Ph.D. in English and Interdisciplinary Humanistic Study from Princeton University.
Originally published at environmentalhumanities.nd.edu.