The 10th anniversary conference celebration of Camille Dungy's groundbreaking 2009 anthology, Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry, will bring together contemporary poets and critical theorists from across the spectrum of genre and academic discipline. The conference will convene at Dartmouth College in the Spring of 2022, and be hosted by the department of English and Creative Writing.
Now, as on the date of its publication, Black Nature represents a major event in the field of African American literary studies, and operates in many ways as the one of the early signposts of what we might think of as a fairly recent—at least in the terms of its critical lexicon and explicit theoretical and aesthetic commitments—ecological turn in black studies more broadly.
It is a collection of poetry and prose that neither obscures the horrors of racist dehumanization, nor traffics in a too-neat sense of collective overcoming or inevitable jubilee. What Black Nature does instead is wrestle with the always already fraught character of certain encounters between black people and nonhuman beings, inviting us to admire the beauty of the open without ever losing ourselves in the notion that the human category has a kind of coherence or inclusiveness built in. For this reason and others, the celebration of Dungy's collection is both overdue and right on time.
The ten-year mark since its arrival provides us with a unique opportunity to reflect on its impact across a range of fields, as well as the larger environmental, social, and political resonances of its central questions in an era indelibly shaped by public spectacles of anti-black violence, and the ever-present threat of ecological catastrophe.