Close readings of Black women reclaiming space within the power of nature In Black to Nature: Pastoral Return and African American Culture, author Stefanie K. Dunning considers both popular and literary texts that range from Beyoncé’s Lemonade to Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones.
These key works restage Black women in relation to nature. Dunning argues that depictions of protagonists who return to pastoral settings contest the violent and racist history that incentivized Black disavowal of the natural world. Dunning offers an original theoretical paradigm for thinking through race and nature by showing that diverse constructions of nature in these texts are deployed as a means of rescrambling the teleology of the Western progress narrative. In a series of fascinating close readings of contemporary Black texts, she reveals how a range of artists evoke nature to suggest that interbeing with nature signals a call for what Jared Sexton calls “the dream of Black Studies”—abolition.
Black to Nature thus offers nuanced readings that advance an emerging body of critical and creative work at the nexus of Blackness, gender, and nature. Written in a clear, approachable, and multilayered style that aims to be as poignant as nature itself, the volume offers a unique combination of theoretical breadth, narrative beauty, and broader perspective that suggests it will be a foundational text in a new critical turn towards framing nature within a cultural studies context.