Behind the Colonial Silence of Wilderness : “In Marronage Lies the Search of a World” Article - 2022

Malcom Ferdinand

Malcom Ferdinand, « Behind the Colonial Silence of Wilderness : “In Marronage Lies the Search of a World”  », Environmental Humanities, 2022, pp. 182–201.. ISSN 2201-1919


What is the relevance of the concept of wilderness today ? For some, the recognition of a troubled history of wilderness regarding people of color does not challenge its pertinence in facing the ecological crisis. However, the author contends that the wilderness concept is problematic because of its inability to recognize other conceptualizations of the Earth held by Indigenous and Black peoples in the Americas and the Caribbean. As a case in point, the author critically engages with a failed attempt to accommodate Black enslaved experiences into a wilderness perspective made by Andreas Malm in a 2018 paper titled “In Wildness Lies the Liberation of the World : On Maroon Ecology and Partisan Nature.” Paradoxically, in suggesting that fugitive slaves’ experiences of “wild” spaces can point to a Marxist theory of wilderness, Malm ignores the concerns of Maroons and Indigenous peoples, including their theorizing voices, their ecology, and their demands for justice. Wilderness is portrayed as emancipatory on the condition that the enslaved and the colonized remain silenced. In response, the author argues that it was not “wilderness” but the ingenious relationships Maroons nurtured with these woods that created the possibility of a world : in marronage lies the search of a world.

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