Publications

Peer-reviewed Articles and Chapters in Scholarly Books

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McGiffin, E. "'Loss Is Upon Us': Seafaring and Hydrocolonialism in ‘Gbenga Adeoba’s Exodus. ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and the Environment [In progress: manuscript invited for the special issue “Decolonial Ecology: Literary and Cultural Representations from the Global South.”]

This article examines Nigerian poet ‘Gbenga Adeoba’s poetry collection Exodus (2020), bringing the work into conversation with the writings of Hofmeyr and other blue humanities scholars. The article considers the watery environments of Adeoba’s poetry, the lasting echoes of colonial violence, and Adeoba’s mediations on migration, one of the greatest challenges of our times.

McGiffin, E. “Fieldwork: Rural Residencies and Environmental Art." Ecologies in Practice: Environmentally Engaged Arts in Canada. Ed. Amanda White and Elysia French. Wilfred Laurier University Press, 2024. [In press]

By creating hubs of high-calibre creative expression and exchange in locations outside of urban centres, artist residency or artist-in-residence programs provide access to the arts for communities that would otherwise lack such opportunities. Rural residency programs may also explicitly encourage cultural engagement with questions of human/nature interactions, environmental sustainability and conservation, and the changing nature of rural life in a contemporary world. Yet they also raise several questions: do artist residencies enhance arts access and art practices in rural host communities? Do they promote unsustainable jet-setting lifestyles? What problematic aspects of residencies (commodification, unequal access, funding, etc.) need to be addressed? This chapter explores these and other questions through a blend of research and personal narrative.

Drawing on theorizations of extraction and extractivism that emphasize the racialized violence of these processes, this article aims to attend to the “insurgent ecocriticism” of Black ecologies and Black geographies in an analysis of Brand’s A Map to the Door of No Return. Brand speaks of a “rift,” the break with the past that the Door created, which permits the extractivist present. Opening the door to the buying and selling not of human labour but of human lives opened the way to the market valuation of every other thing. These dynamics are deeply relevant to Canadian ecocriticism not only because chattel slavery was constitutive of the British colonialism that produced (and produces) the environments of Canada, but also because this history of racialized plunder continues to serve White imperialist projects of contemporary Canadian extractivism at home and abroad.

Although the human relationship with aluminum is short, the metal has affected our lives and societies more profoundly than perhaps any other. A light metal that doesn’t corrode, aluminum is a key ingredient in airplanes, automobiles, and artillery—three industries that transformed twentieth century society. Aluminum propelled western modernity towards new notions of time and space, necessity and convenience, safety, and security within an increasingly globalized world. Yet as it became a defining ingredient of modernity and global industry, aluminum helped entrench an unequal and racialized international order through extractive systems built on older infrastructures of extraction and exploitation.

This chapter presents contemporary examples of oral and written African ecopoetics drawn from East, West, and Southern Africa. Focusing specifically on animals and water in African poetry, we examine poems that  grapple with altered ecologies and offer new visions of how to live with (and within) environments and cultures in a state of rapid change.

Published almost exclusively in the multilingual Johannesburg newspaper Umteteli wa Bantu during the 1920s, Nontsizi Mgqwetho’s poetry is enmeshed with the racial and industrial politics of her time and place. Despite its denunciations of the colonial state and vehement calls for black unity and activism, her work is complicated by its publication in a newspaper sponsored by the Chamber of Mines. This article investigates Mgqwetho’s forceful political poetry and its intersection with both the coercive, racist labor policies of her times and the discursive power of Umteteli Wa Bantu. It argues that in linking her religious and political convictions with the social anxieties of her times, Mgqwetho’s work provided the ford through the era’s turbulent political waters.

In October 2020, French-language media overflowed with coverage of the release of Sophie Pétronin, the last French hostage held overseas. Pétronin, a 75-year-old humanitarian worker, had been kidnapped in northern Mali nearly four years earlier and returned to France as a Muslim convert who challenged received ideas about security and terror, generating a violent backlash across French social media. She made headlines again a year later for her unlawful clandestine return to Mali. This article argues that the complex figure of Sophie Mariam Pétronin brings into focus the masculinised necropolitics of the Sahelian conflict, including the assumed privilege of white actors, hostility towards female involvement, and the ‘relations of enmity’ that Europe maintains with the racialised others of its former colonies

Jordan Abel is a Nisga’a poet whose three poetry collections use techniques of textual appropriation and erasure. Previous scholarship discusses Abel’s political use of form to challenge colonial appropriations of Indigenous land and cultural artifacts and to express the physical and representational erasures of Indigenous bodies from Canadian landscapes. This article builds on this earlier work to argue that in engaging with the intergenerational trauma of settler colonialism and its mechanisms, Abel’s poetry is activist writing concerned not only with the materiality and politics of texts but also with human connections to landscapes and environments and calls for their restitution.

How does one write—about bodies, sensations, the more-than-human world—in the midst of, and in response to, the mounting devastation that settler colonial capitalism continues to wreak on lands, waters, and relationships? Adorno’s (diversely interpreted) statement that “to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric” (Adorno 1983, 34) resonates strongly at the current moment: what does it mean to write, and especially to write beautifully, in conditions that are permeated with colonial violence and capitalist devastation?

While most people living in post-industrial societies rarely interact with cattle, cattle themselves have never been more abundant. Tens of millions of cattle are slaughtered each year within a global industrialized food system that is deeply injurious to animals, humans, and the environment. Yet industrial intimacy is far from the only possible human-cattle relationship in the modern world. This article examines poetry from a contemporary pastoralist tradition as well as from nineteenth century cattle droving that was a formative aspect of North American culture. It argues that relationships of proximity and associated expressive arts are key aspects of the larger project of transforming our damaged relationship with a species that plays an important role in human well-being.

Collaborations between academics and practitioners working in international development hold significant potential to increase the impact and effectiveness of development research and practice. Innovative and successful collaborations can undoubtedly offer rich benefits to all parties involved. At the same time, it is worth noting that calls for increased collaboration are part of broader economic trends that include shrinking financial support for both the higher education and the overseas development assistance sectors. High-level structural and institutional changes that place partners under increased stress can make effective collaborations more difficult to achieve and maintain and can make them costlier from the perspective of human wellbeing.

This chapter discusses three izibongo performed by the amaXhosa imbongi (poet) Thukela Poswayo at public events near his hometown of Mthatha in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province. The poems are deeply evocative both of place and of the ancestral presences that continue to inhabit those places, tying people into a lineage and form of dwelling that extends into past and future.

In rural and peri-urban areas of South Africa’s Eastern Cape, iimbongi, or praise poets, are artists with a gift for both language and healing who play an important and varied role in contemporary society. Although the tradition is diverse and changing, the imbongi’s literary practice is widely understood to have spiritual and ritual functions, much like the practices of traditional healers. Iimbongi have much to offer South Africa’s decolonisation process, helping to heal communities struggling through the aftermath of historical violence by actively affirming indigenous agency, language and identity.

The South African labour movement of the 1970s and 1980s was accompanied by the rise of a new working class poetry. Drawing on traditional literary forms, the ‘worker poets’ became a prominent voice of anti-apartheid and anti-capitalist resistance. Performed during union meetings and community gatherings, their poems encoded the experiences of black labourers and gave voice to their struggles. As union membership surged throughout the 1980s, oral poets played a pivotal role in representing an invisible working class, advancing common notions of democracy, galvanising labourers into action and promoting social cohesion in the pursuit of a common cause. In challenging the extractive theft inflicted on their communities and environments, the worker poets exemplify a version of African environmentalism that recognises the constitutive ties between capital, labour and landscape, resisting not only the exploitation of African labour under the apartheid regime but also the environmental injustice that this subjugation represented.

Book Reviews