Myers on Chesnutt.pdf - Other Nature Resistance to...

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Other Nature: Resistance to Ecological Hegemony in Charles W. Chesnutt's "The Conjure Woman" Author(s): Jeffrey Myers Source: African American Review, Vol. 37, No. 1 (Spring, 2003), pp. 5-20 Published by: African American Review (St. Louis University) Stable URL: Accessed: 13-09-2017 20:14 UTC JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [email protected] Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at African American Review (St. Louis University) is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to African American Review This content downloaded from 134.74.20.15 on Wed, 13 Sep 2017 20:14:29 UTC All use subject to
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Other Nature: Resistance to Ecological Hegemony in Charles W. Chesnutt's The Conjure Woman Jeffrey Myers is a Fellow in the Humanities at Stanford University, having completed his Ph.D. in English at Tufts University. He is currently at work on a manuscript based on his dissertation, Converging Stories: Race and Ecology in American Literature, 1785-1902, which focuses on multiethnic litera- ture and the environment in nineteenth-century American literature. He recently had an article on Joseph Conrad appear in Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment. The nation was founded on the principles of "free land" (stolen from Native Americans and Mexicans), "free labor" (cruelly extracted from African slaves), and "free men" (white men with property). From the outset, institutional racism shaped the economic, political, and ecological landscape, and buttressed the exploitation of both land and people. (Robert D. Bullard, "Anatomy of Environmental Racism and the Environmental Justice Movement") [The Earth] is perceived, ironically, as other, alien, evil, and threatening by those who are finding they cannot draw a healthful breath without its cooperation. While the Earth is poisoned, everything it supports is poisoned. While the Earth is enslaved, none of us is free. (Alice Walker, Living by the Word) A n image from Charles W. Chesnutt's The Conjure Woman (1899) illustrates how the construction of the "Other" in the dominant American culture is as injurious to landscape as it is to groups of people. In the story "Po' Sandy," narrated by the for- mer slave Julius McAdoo, a "conjured" slave, Sandy, has been turned by his wife Tenie into a pine tree in order to escape from his master, who plans to "lend" him to another plantation owner. Each night she turns him back into a man for a short time, before turning him back to a tree again in the morning. After some time, however, this "old pine" is cut down for lumber, an action that symbolizes, at the same time, both the dismemberment of the body of the slave and the exploitation of land in the form of log- ging.1 Such images of slaves conjured into aspects of the land-
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