Heather Merrill

Professor of Africana Studies Heather Merrill served as a discussant for a session and also co-organized and co-chaired a panel discussion at the annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers (AAG) held March 28-April 1 in San Francisco.

In a session on “Rethinking ‘Europe’ through its borderlands,” Merrill commented on papers addressing everyday forms of inclusion and exclusion and how ‘Europe’ as a geo-body, a historical construct, a symbol and a relation, is currently being produced and reproduced through old and new encounters in its multiple and continuously evolving borderlands.

According to Merrill, “The papers offered new ways to map that decentered the binaries of periphery and center, there and here, the sacredness and purity of bounded national spaces and the cultural logic of us v. them.” She added, “One paper discussed the complexities of Black life worlds in Italy, and the need for alternative lexicons and praxes.”

The session was organized by graduate students at the University of California Berkeley. Participants also included assistant professors from New York and Rutgers Universities.

Merrill was also a co-organizer and co-chair of a panel on “Predian Geographies of Danger.” The panel included critical geographers, Michael Watts, Gillian Hart, Cindi Katz, Shiloh Krupar, Katharyne Mitchell and Richard Walker. They discussed their contributions, all involving analyses of power and inequality through ‘situated practices,’ in Merrill’s newly published co-edited volume, Spaces of Danger: Culture and Power in the Everyday.

The panelists discussed the theoretical perspectives that informed their writing as it was influenced by what Merrill and co-editor Lisa Hoffman describe as the late Allan Pred’s “eclectic and spatialized cultural Marxism.” Topics included his focus on the past in the present, his engagement with the work of Walter Benjamin, and his interrogation of the “situated ignorances” that are part of a dangerous production and reproduction of power.

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