07.11.23 | IMANI JACQUELINE BROWN (Queen Mary, University of London)
And still, in spite of it all, we integrate and flow
This lecture will explore the ecological disintegration of Bulbancha, the original name for southeastern Louisiana, USA. Meaning ‘land of many languages’ in Mobilian, a trade dialect of Choctaw, Bulbancha was the heart of trade between two dozen Indigenous nations. French, Spanish, German, British, and ultimately US American setter colonialism dispossessed the land’s people, names, and languages and saw their replacement with European romance languages and names.
In 2007, The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) removed the Euro-American names of 32 bodies of water in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana; the distinct bodies had merged into the open waters of the Gulf as the land that formed their perimeters eroded away. This progress of disintegration is the result of one hundred years of violent oil extraction, which has caused the erosion of over two thousand square miles of land (and counting). Oil and gas exploration itself unfurls its violence from the foundational logics of settler colonialism and slavery. The displacement of people prefigured the displacement of names, which prefigured the displacement of sediment, which has again prefigured the displacement of people. Southeastern Louisiana is scheduled to be uninhabitable by humans by 2050.
In 2018, three hundred years after colonial conquest, Indigenous and Creole inhabitants of “Louisiana” remind us that the Mobilian language speaks to the true heart of Bulbancha: In spite of it all, Louisiana remains a place of convergence, integration, and flow; amid escalating climate and ecological catastrophe, Bulbancha’s inhabitants strive to support one another and demonstrate care for our common ecological home.
Imani Jacqueline Brown is an artist, activist, writer, and architectural researcher from New Orleans, based in London. Her work investigates the “continuum of extractivism,” which spans from settler-colonial genocide and slavery to fossil fuel production and climate change. In exposing the layers of violence and resistance that form the foundations of settler-colonial society, she opens space to imagine paths to ecological reparations.
Imani’s practice combines photography and videography, archival research, ecological philosophy, legal theory, people’s history, remote sensing, and counter-cartographic strategies to disentangle the spatial logics that make geographies, unmake communities, and break Earth’s geology. Her research is disseminated internationally through art installations, public actions, reports, and testimony delivered to courts and organs of the United Nations.
Among other things, Imani is currently a PhD candidate in Geography at Queen Mary, University of London, a research fellow with Forensic Architecture, and an associate lecturer in MA Architecture at the Royal College of Arts.