Mark D. Hersey Mississippi State University, USA "Black Belt Sketches: Ecology and Identity in the American South"

Helsinki University Humanities Programme
Helsinki Environmental Humanities Forum
April 7, 2020 (Tuesday), at 14.15- 15.45


Although it is hardly one of North America’s most celebrated landscapes, the physiographic Black Belt of the American South offers an uncommonly productive place to explore the historical intersections of nature and culture. Tracing the environmental history of the Black Belt from the late eighteenth century into the early twenty first, this talk centers on the often-surprising junctures of land use, race, and identity in the region. In doing so, it underscores the ways in which cultural identities have been cobbled onto and read out of the material world. Calling attention to the profound social and material consequences that have followed, it highlights the degree to which the region’s landscape—no less than its social order—has been riven by race. Pointing to some ways in which the region’s history offers an instructive case study for rural development around the world today, it also aims to spur an appreciation for ostensibly ordinary places.



Mark D. Hersey is an associate professor of history at Mississippi State University where he directs the Center for the History of Agriculture, Science, and the Environment of the South. He is the author of My Work Is That of Conservation: An Environmental Biography of George Washington Carver (2011) and the co-editor of A Field on Fire: The Future of Environmental History (2019). He currently edits the journal Environmental History. 

Link to Mark D. Hersey's university profile

Accessibility: Our venue is wheelchair accessible only partially because the elevators in Porthania are small. Electric wheelchairs do not fit in Porthania elevators. In our venue there is no dedicated wheelchair seating, but there is space for wheelchairs. Should you have specific questions regarding the location, please contact organizers in English or Finnish: