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dr. M. (Maarten) Zwiers

Senior Lecturer

Race Land: The Ecology of Segregation

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Race Land investigates how white-supremacist social systems affect people and the environment on a worldwide scale. Taking an innovative interdisciplinary approach, its aim is to examine how race and class discrimination globally interlocks with economic development, ecological issues, medical research, and the advancement of science more generally. The focus of this project is on a modern and quintessential white-supremacist society: the segregationist South of the United States during the Cold War era. Often considered a regional backwater that was out of step with modernity, I apply a radically different perspective that places the South at the center of U.S. policymaking and racialized innovation in the post-World War II period.

Race Land emphasizes the ingenious strategies southern segregationists employed to keep their racist worldview intact and export its main tenets across the globe, with profound consequences for ecosystems around the world and for the populations inhabiting them. The legacy of such strategies continues until today. In order to uncover the origins of this legacy and create a better understanding of its current footprint, my project advances a novel methodology that combines whiteness studies, the sociology of race and ethnic relations, environmental history, decoloniality, and postcolonial studies. As such, it generates a much more complete picture of the multifaceted and transnational nature of U.S. segregationist thought and practice and the global networks its proponents formed to sustain their white-supremacist worldview.

Race Land explores the impact of segregationist ideology on a wide range of policy decisions and economic activities: from oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico to the Caribbean sugar trade, from racialized genetic research to support for anti-communist dictators such as the Franco regime in Spain, and from the development of pesticides to opening the European market for U.S. products treated with these toxics. The project addresses pressing current questions regarding social and environmental justice, which cannot be answered unless we know more about their historical context, about when and why these problems arose in the first place.

Last modified:27 June 2022 03.47 a.m.