Hannah Rachel Cole: RITM Postdoctoral Fellow in the Environmental Humanities

This summer, The Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration, in partnership with Yale Environmental Humanities, announced that Hannah Rachel Cole was chosen as the 2022-2023 RITM Postdoctoral Fellow in the Environmental Humanities. Cole’s book manuscript, entitled A Thorny Way of Thinking: Botanical Afterlives of Caribbean Plantation Slavery, proposes a method of reading for plant biodiversity in Caribbean literature. Her digital humanities project, Botanical Imaginaries, is a complement to her book project.

Hannah Rachel Cole is a scholar of literature, race, and the environment who recently completed her PhD in Comparative Literature at Cornell University. During her time as the RITM Postdoctoral Fellow, Cole will develop her book manuscript and expand her digital humanities project.

Her book manuscript, provisionally entitled A Thorny Way of Thinking: Botanical Afterlives of Caribbean Plantation Slavery, proposes a method of reading for plant biodiversity in Caribbean literature. Each chapter pits a well-known plant against a lesser-known species, one a lucrative commodity, the other from outside the domain of traditional export agriculture. In following these dyads through literary works from the Hispanophone, Anglophone, and Francophone Caribbean, she argues that marginal plants produce counternarratives to the tragedy of monoculture by providing material and symbolic resources to captive subjects in plantation societies. She proceeds to examine the species’ afterlives as “superfoods,” cosmetics, and biofuels, tracing how these recent patterns of commodification repeat the structures of the plantation. Ultimately, her project argues for the power of uncultivated flora by showing how monoculture societies depend upon the “weeds” at their margins.

Cole has published “Breadfruit in the Wake: Imagining Vegetal Mutiny in Derek Walcott’s ‘The Bounty’” in the Latin American Literary Review, and another paper from her project, “Beyond the Cane: Reading for Guinea Grass in Biografía de un cimarrón and ‘Paisaje de Arcilla’” was awarded the Cornell Comparative Literature Graduate Student Essay Prize.

Cole’s digital humanities project, accessible at www.botanicalimaginaries.com, is the public-facing complement to her book project. Begun with funding from the Cornell University Library and Society for the Humanities, it offers interactive maps of plant migration in Caribbean literary texts. She plans to expand the project by adding new texts to the site and developing tools for users to compare the literary representations of a single species across multiple texts.   

As the RITM Postdoctoral Fellow, Cole will help lead the yearlong “Topics in the Environmental Humanities” workshop, part of the Environmental Humanities Graduate Certificate Program. She will also join the Environmental Humanities Steering Committee, in which she will contribute to the leadership of Environmental Humanities at Yale. She looks forward to connecting with students and colleagues in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences at Yale.

For further information, see https://environmentalhumanities.yale.edu/news/hannah-rachel-cole-announced-2022-2023-ritm-postdoctoral-fellow-environmental-humanities [Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.]

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