A tight knit community of students, faculty, staff and alumni has always been central to the Macalester College Geography Department and we terribly miss seeing each other during this global pandemic. This  virtual speaker series is one way to draw us together for a bit of intellectual sustenance and convivial exchange. Please join us to hear and engage with four dynamic speakers throughout the year. This virtual speaker series will be held on zoom, featuring a talk, followed by ample time for engagement and discussion. The series highlights younger scholars who are working at the cutting edge of geography and on socially relevant issues.

Adam Bledsoe, Assistant Professor
University of Minnesota Geography, Environment & Society
Maroon Futures: Quilombo struggles in the Bay of Aratu, Brazil

November 18, 2020 (4:30 pm – 5:30 pm)

For nearly two centuries, the Bay of Aratu has been the site of various forms of marronage. The present-day quilombos of Rio dos Macacos, Tororó, and Ilha de Maré trace their lineages back to enslaved and maroon populations in the region, and continue centuries-long practices of autonomy and self-subsistence. The past seventy years has seen increasing pressure on these ways of life, due, in part, to the expansion of extractive industries and their accompanying infrastructure. Petroleum exploration and refinement, commodity shipping, and militarization all work as concrete mechanisms that both plug the Bay of Aratu, and Brazil more broadly, into the global economy, while also physically changing the topography of the region at the expense of maroon ways of life. The quilombo communities have responded in a variety of ways, using protest and the occupation of public space, self-defense, engagement with local elected officials, and the continuation of self-subsistence and governance to both bring attention to their struggle, while also preserving the ethics of marronage that have affirmed their lives for centuries. These actions present forms of creativity and resistance which also evidence the possibility of a future in which Black life is valued and protected, demonstrating the potential for more just ways of life.

Lindsay Naylor, Assistant Professor – Lanegran Day Speaker
University of Delaware Department of Geography and Spatial Sciences
Fair Rebels? Solidarity and Fair Trade in Movement
February 3, 2021 (4:45 pm – 6:15 pm CST)

In this talk Dr. Naylor will discuss solidarity and fair trade drawing on the arguments made in her recent book, Fair Trade Rebels. Specifically, she will focus on the partnerships between coffee growers and roasters that are created through fair trade certification. For fair trade cooperatives, producing under the fair trade label has assisted with establishing important ties to buyers in the U.S. that allow not only for secure sources of income, but also a critical space for support and creating an ethic of care. This ethic of care is a key element of fair trade certification that is rarely examined. Here, Naylor will discuss what is fair trade, who is it for, and who gets to decide.  Recording of Lindsay Naylor’s Presentation

Kafui Attoh ’06, Associate Professor
City University of New York, CUNY School of Professional Studies
Public Transportation and the Right to the City
March 24, 2021 (4:45 pm – 5:45 pm)

Is public transportation a right? Should it be? For those reliant on public transit, the answer is invariably “yes” to both. When city officials propose slashing service or raising fares, it is these riders who are often the first to demand their “right” to keep their bus. In this presentation, I start from the presumption that such riders are justified. For those who lack other means of mobility, transit is a lifeline. It offers access to many of the entitlements we take as essential: food, employment, and democratic public life itself. While accepting transit as a right, the goal of the presentation will be to suggest that there remains a desperate need to think critically, both about what is meant by a right and about the types of rights at issue when public transportation is threatened. Drawing on a detailed case study of the various struggles that have come to define public transportation in California’s East Bay, I argue that advocates of transportation justice ought to focus as much on questions of civil rights as they do on the questions implicit in the more radical demand for a right to the city.  Recording of Kafui Attoh’s Presentation

Robert T. Walker, Professor
Department of Latin American Studies & Department of Geography, University of Florida
Avoiding Amazonian Catastrophes in the 21st Century
April 5, 2021 (4:45 pm – 5:45 pm)

A new threat now confronts the Amazon Forest in the form of a massive infrastructure program, the Initiative for the Integration of the Regional Infrastructure of South America, or IIRSA. This presentation details the results of a projection analysis showing that IIRSA could push the Amazonian forest past a ‘‘tipping point,’’ replacing it with tropical savanna, or some form of degraded, secondary vegetation. In addition to the threat of infrastructure, recent research on regional climate change in the Basin suggests that a tipping point could be reached before the end of the century, even without a new wave of deforestation. Such a catastrophe would precipitate significant environmental impacts, with reductions in biodiversity and carbon sequestration potential. It would also endanger the water security of millions of people throughout the South American continent, dependent on moisture transport from the Amazon Basin for agriculture and consumptive use. Environmental policy in Brazil reduced deforestation at the turn of the millennium, raising hopes that the Amazonian Forest had been conserved at last. However, eroding environmental governance throughout the Basin and difficulties in implementing global action on mitigating greenhouse gas emissions have once again raised the specter of an environmental catastrophe in the form of a tipping point transgression. Very little now stands in the way of rapid development of the Basin except for Amazonia’s indigenous peoples, who are willing to defend their territories in the face of powerful forces that would otherwise appropriate them. At the moment, the Munduruku People of the Tapajós River Valley have managed to protect their territorial environments despite the Brazilian government’s strong desire to dam the river and channelize it, turning one of the world’s most spectacular rivers into the “Mississippi of Brazil.”  Recording of Robert Walker’s Presentation

Co-Sponsored Speaker Events

“Farming the Floodplain: Gendered Surplus People and Maladaptation to Climate Extremes in Northern Ghana.”

 Dr. Hanson Nyantakyi-Frimpong, Assistant Professor of Geography at the University of Denver

 12-1pm CST, April 1, 2021

Dr. Hanson Nyantakyi-Frimpong, Assistant Professor of Geography at the University of Denver, explores how a foreign mining concession led to the dispossession of pre-existing land use rights held by thousands of farmers across several villages in northwestern Ghana. While most of these farmers became landless, their labor power was not absorbed into mining activities, thus creating a group that Karl Marx has referred to as relative surplus people. To fulfill gendered responsibilities in household food provisioning, women who experienced complete land dispossession ended up farming the floodplain of Ghana’s Black Volta River. Nyantakyi-Frimpong argues that for these women, their status as surplus people and the simultaneous need to ensure household food security compel them to pursue flood adaptation measures that heighten vulnerability and generate new risks. Recording of Dr. Hanson Nyantakyi-Frimpong’s Presentation

Co-sponsored by the Food Agriculture & Society Program, Geography Dept, Environmental Studies Dept, Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies Dept, African Studies Program and International Development Program