Notes on Slave Gardens


Scholars have long understood that the slave plantation system was the model and motor for the carbon-greedy machine-based factory system that is often cited as an inflection point for the Anthropocene. Nurtured in even the harshest circumstances, slave gardens not only provided crucial human food, but also refuges for biodiverse plants, animals, fungi, and soils. Slave gardens are an underexplored world, especially compared to imperial botanical gardens, for the travels and propagations of myriad critters.
From Note 5 on "Plantationocene"
Donna Haraway "Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene, Chthulucene: Making Kin"
in Environmental Humanities, vol. 6, 2015, pp. 159-165

A debate waged among southern plantation owners about the desirability of these gardens. Some argued they encouraged domestic tranquility and tied slaves more securely to the land. Others felt the gardens, and the independence they encouraged, led to discontent and distracted slaves from labor in the fields.
Babbette Block's sculpture
Brookgreen Gardens Lowcountry Trail Sculptures, Murells Inlet, South Carolina
Female Enslaved African Stainless Steel, 8 1/2' high
Male Enslaved African Stainless Steel, 9' high
There is another garden pointing to modern slavery — design by Juliet Sergeant
cultivating a different kind of awareness.

And so for day 1939

Observations on School for Indians

The poet bears witness.


We walked through the crowded class-rooms.
No map of Canada or the Territories,
No library or workshop,
Everywhere religious scenes,
Christ and Saints, Stations of the Cross,
Beads hanging from nails, crucifixes,
And two kinds of secular art —
Silk-screen prints of the Group of Seven,
And crayon drawings and masks
Made by the younger children,
The single visible expression
Of the soul of these broken people.

Upstairs on the second storey
Seventy little cots
Touching end to end
In a room 30 by 40
Housed the resident boys
In this firetrap mental gaol.
F.R. Scott "Fort Providence" (Section V of Letter from the Mackenzie River 1956) in The Dance Is One (McClellan and Stewart, 1973).

And so for day 1938

Process is Not the Same as Flow

My Mother Was a Computer by N. Katherine Hayles.

[…] the world is not a collection of preexisting objects but a continuing stream of processes. Although we customarily assume that the world preexists the processes, from a perceptual point of view the processes come first, and the objects we take as the world emerge from them. It is precisely this flux, this ongoingness of process from which the world emerges, that the realist in effect erases by privileging the underlying forms as the essential reality.
I am moved to ponder sedimentation. "Flux" is the kernel of the concretion. A rest. Arrest.

And so for day 1937

Profs and Porn Star Names

A most curious error crept into My Mother Was a Computer by N. Katherine Hayles. Montreal professor Eric Savoy appears as Ric Savoy in a discussion of a Henry James story (In the Cage). The name change takes on a deliciously twist since the passage in question is about rent boys and "Ric Savoy" sounds like a hustler. Here is the context in Hayles:

One might generalize this argument by noting that it applies to anyone occupying the subject position of woman. There is historical evidence that at the time James wrote the story he may have been aware of recent scandals involving telegraph boys and prostitution. In Ric Savoy's reading of the story, the allusions to prostitution stand in for the more scandalous prospect of male homosexual prostitution and the fear that the lower-class telegraph boys would testify against their aristocratic clients.
Google Books review function is useful for tagging such errors and generating a list of errata.

And so for day 1936

One Little One and Another

It was tiny in its first edition. It grew a little. Still palm sized.

Patti Smith Woolgathering

On the back of the dust jacket of the second edition: "Everything contained in this little book is true, and written just like it was. The writing of it drew me from my strange torpor and I hope that in some measure it will fill the reader with a vague and curious joy. — Patti Smith"

And so for day 1935

The Voyages … The Voices

Star Trek Beyond

Captain James T. Kirk: [epilogue] Space: the final frontier.
Commander Spock: These are the voyages of the starship...
Montgomery 'Scotty' Scott: ...Enterprise. Its continuing mission...
Doctor 'Bones' McCoy: explore strange new worlds...
Sulu: seek out new life...
Chekov: ...and new civilizations...
Lieutenant Uhura: boldly go where no one has gone before.
This coda delivered by a team rings true: I am struck by the pluralism (throughout the movie) and I like the update on the signature send off to make it more gender inclusive.

And so for day 1934

Addressing Nonaddressing

David Mitchell: What my son's autism has taught me

First up, is that we stop assuming a communicative impairment denotes a cognitive one. Let’s be wary of assuming that behind autism’s speechlessness lies nothing, or nothing to speak of. Instead, let’s assume that we’re dealing with a mind as keen as our own, and act accordingly. Talk to the person. Don’t worry if there’s no evidence he or she understands. Maybe there is evidence, but you’re not recognising it as such. If the person is there, never discuss them as if they’re not, or as if they’re only there like the coat stand is there. If they don’t notice this courtesy, no harm is done; but if they do, then someone who is often treated as a part-object, part-human, total nuisance gets to feel like a real, valid, card-carrying member of society.
The Guardian

And so for day 1933

Pierce, Strip, Whittle

Elizabeth McLean
The Swallows Uncaged

Ngọc climbed the pole to the thatched roof, hauling her work with her — a bin of rattan splints, which she whittled with her awl until they were thin enough to weave into baskets and fishing nets.
I was tripped up by this passage because I did not associate awls with whittling. For me, whittling is a progressive shaving off accomplished with the blade of a knife. An awl is a pointed tool for piercing. Upon further reflection I could see how a more general definition of whittling as reducing in size could accommodate envisioning the work of an awl especially if dealing with rattan. The character could pierce the rattan splints and strip off a segment thereby thinning.

Still can't quite shake off the suspicion that the selection of "awl" was influenced by the internal rhyme with "haul". A word pierced and stripped: whittled down.

And so for day 1932

For What Ends Do Your Candles Burn?

From the directions to the butler

Never let the candles burn too low, but give them as a lawful perquisite to your friend the cook, to increase her kitchen-stuff, or if this not be allowed in your house, give them in charity to the poor neighbours, who often run on your errands.
Jonathan Swift Directions to Servants

And so for day 1931

Degrading Service

The marker here is 'attention' which is marshalled by an implicit (and perhaps dubious) equation (more attention = better quality). This is abandoned in the second example with its stress on 'convenience'. There must be a sweet spot between attention and convenience that spells quality experience.

For some other services, the apparent higher productivity is due to the debasement of the product. A teacher can raise her apparent productivity by four times by having four times as many pupils in her classroom, but the quality of her 'product' has been diluted by the fact that she cannot pay as much individual attention as before. A lot of the increases in retail service productivity in countries such as the US and Britain has been bought by lowering the quality of the retail service itself while ostensibly offering cheaper shoes, sofas and apples: there are fewer sales assistants at shoe stores, so you wait twenty minutes instead of five; you have to wait four weeks, rather than two, for the delivery of your new sofa and probably also have to take the day off work because they will only deliver 'sometime between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.'; you spend much more time than before driving to the new supermarket and walking through the now longer aisles when you get there, because those apples are cheaper than in the old supermarket only because the new supermarket is in the middle of nowhere and thus can have more floor space.
Ha-Joon Chang 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism

And so for day 1930