Research | Queen’s University Canada

Katherine McKittrick

Katherine McKittrick

What can human and natural environments tell us about black liberation struggles? This research program will analyze the interdisciplinary contours of Black Studies and the emergence of geographic, ecological, and aesthetic themes in this field.

[Photo of Dr. Katherine McKittrick]
Canada Research Chair in Black Studies
Tier 1

A new approach to Black Studies

In her research, Katherine McKittrick, Canada Research Chair in Black Studies, focuses on methodologies and method-making, calling attention to how black communities creatively build their geographic and ecological environments by employing interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary collaborations. Shying away from prevailing theories of race that tend to only focus on the victimized body, Dr. McKittrick seeks to stretch how blackness is theorized by knitting together multiple histories, locations, temporalities, and creative texts that illuminate anti-colonial placemaking activities. These activities expose and critique the entwined processes of climate catastrophe and racial violence while also, importantly, centering what she calls black livingness: the production of narratives and lifeways that enhance our collective human-environmental well-being. At the heart of this project are complex black methodologies and interdisciplinary practices – academic and nonacademic – that focus on how creative acts, collaboration, and co-operation can help us better understand and build sustainable futures.

As a part of her research, Dr. McKittrick proposes to challenge typical academic methods, particularly those that are beholden to a top-down framework (wherein the mode of analysis is theory being applied to a static site or text). Her project will, instead, draw attention to how non-academic works – poetry, music, visual arts – are in themselves theoretical frameworks that complement and extend how race animates studies of geography, ecology, and environmental decline. This innovative methodological approach goes beyond traditional academic boundaries to position black writers, artists, musicians, activists, and academics as crucial participants the collaborative effort of knowledge building.

Interdisciplinarity and dialogic collaboration are at the core of Dr. McKittrick’s research, which focuses on what can be learnt from, and not just about, black communities, cultures, and methodologies.