Undrowned: Black feminist lessons from marine mammals

Soundings - ISSN 1362-6620
Volume 2021 Number 78

Undrowned: Black feminist lessons from marine mammals
Alexis Pauline Gumbs pages 20-37
DOI: 10.3898/SOUN.78.01.2021


Those who survived in the underbellies of boats, under each other under unbreathable circumstances, are the undrowned. Their breathing did not make them individual survivors. It made a context of undrowning. Breathing in unbreathable circumstances is what we still do every day in the chokehold of racial gendered ableist capitalism. We are still undrowning. And this ‘we’ doesn’t only mean people whose ancestors survived the middle passage, because the scale of our breathing is planetary. These meditations inspired by encounters with marine mammals are an offering towards the possibility that instead of continuing the trajectory of slavery, entrapment, separation and domination, and making our atmosphere unbreathable, we might instead practise another way to breathe. And because our marine mammal kindred are amazing at not drowning, they are called on as teachers, mentors, guides: the task of a marine mammal apprentice is to open up space for wondering together, and identifying with. The first meditation explores how we can listen across species, across extinction, across the harm that humans have inflicted on other mammals as well as each other. The second explores how we can learn different ways to breathe. The third considers what we remember and what we forget, how we name and categorise what we can barely observe, how we cage, categorise and destroy marine mammals, and what we can learn from the lives of those that have survived.

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To cite this article
Alexis Pauline Gumbs (2021) Undrowned: Black feminist lessons from marine mammals, Soundings, 2021(78), 20-37. https://doi.org/10.3898/SOUN.78.01.2021

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