Smith, Mistinguette, “Wild Black Margins”, Wildness: Relations of People and Place, (University of Chicago Press, 2017).

The notion of the wold requires a colonial memory, one unwilling to witness long histories of indigenous naming, habitation, settlement, and cultivation. Such a notion is rare among people who are African Americans, Afro-Caribbean, and others whose blackness is a marker that they are neither indigenous to this land nor colonizing settlers. While blackness as a racial trope is often associated with wildness, it is also a racial identity that signifies a condition of displacement, of being uprooted from place. In America, black people have made the bricks of the built environment by hand. Black people have done the work of cultivation and domestication of wild spaces without ever being names as the ones who turned forests into plantations and pastures, and who have done so under a freedom deeply constrained. And yet one would be in error to assume that blackness does not also include a joyful relationship to land that is not defined by the bonds of ownership.

So where does the wild dwell in the black imagination today?…

…The black wild is interstitial, the thing that’s thriving in the in-between. In nature, an ecotone is the place where two ecologies–for instance field and forest–meet and are in tension. The black wild is the rich ecotone where built and natural ecologies meet and are in tension, creating places where diverse forms of life compete and cooperate. These wild black margins are the places toward which I have turned my listening ear (138).

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