Updated: September 10, 2008 - Listen to the Audio
For geographer Carolyn Finney "environmental justice" is too narrow a construct for understanding the deepest issues about race and the environment. For Finney, it's the "racialization of space" that's important because it narrows black identity, discourages African American engagement with the natural world, and excludes poor urban gardeners from the band of "environmentalists."
Finney will be on the MHC campus Tuesday, September 9, to deliver a lecture titled "What's Race Got to Do with It?: Climate Change, Privilege, and Consciousness." Her talk, presented by the Mount Holyoke College Center for the Environment, will take place at 7:30 pm in Gamble Auditorium.
Finney's circuitous journey to academic life at the University of California at Berkeley has left no discernable space for her between the scholarly and the personal. Her path began as a child in a gardener's cottage on a wealthy white person's estate. It wound through an acting career of a dozen years, a round-the-world backpacking trip, and an 18-month stay in a Nepalese village. In 2006, with a doctorate from Clark University in hand, she landed a professorship at UC Berkeley.
"I'm interested in the public conversation about the environment," Finney said. "How are we having this conversation in the newspapers, on TV? Who are we seeing? Who are we not seeing? What are the stereotypes?" She is currently completing a book to be titled Black Faces, White Spaces: African Americans and the Great Outdoors.
Finney's visit to Mount Holyoke will add new angles to the campus conversation around Danzy Senna's debut novel Causcasia, the MHC class of 2012 Common Reading.
"As a white, middle class, outdoor-loving, card-carrying member of the environmental movement, I fit the stereoptype of environmentalist perfectly," said Sandra Postel, the Leslie and Sarah Miller Director of the Center for the Environment. "I'm eager to learn about my conditioned perspectives and how they need to evolve. Finney will convey insights critically important to our community."
Finney's talk, cosponsored by the Office of the Dean of the College, the Office of the Dean of Students, and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, is free and open to the public. Gamble Auditorium is accessible by wheelchair.