What does ethnographic research look like when one’s main interlocutors are no longer living? Using the discovery of 95 graves of former prisoners in Sugar Land, Texas, this talk’s purpose is two-fold: 1) to excavate the contemporary significance of the region’s former sugar empire and 2) to explore methodological challenges and opportunities of working with ancestors and archives.
Dr. Ashanté M. Reese earned a PhD in Anthropology from American University. Broadly speaking, Dr. Reese works at the intersection of critical food studies and Black geographies, examining the ways Black people produce and navigate food-related spaces. Animated by the question, who and what survives?, Dr. Reese’s work has focused on the everyday strategies Black people employ while navigating inequity. Her first book, Black Food Geographies: Race, Self-Reliance, and Food Access in Washington, D.C., takes up these themes through an ethnographic exploration of antiblackness and food access. Black Food Geographies won the 2020 Best Monograph Award from the Association for the Study of Food and Society and 2020 Margaret Mead Award jointly awarded by the American Anthropological Association and the Society for Applied Anthropology. Her second book, Black Food Matters: Racial Justice in the Wake of Food Justice, is a collection co-edited with Hanna Garth that explores the geographic, social, and cultural dimensions of food in Black life across the U.S. Currently, Dr. Reese is working on a cultural history of sugar and Sugar Land, Texas in which she explores the spatial, economic, and carceral implications of sugar and the sometimes contradictory and deadly sweetness that marks Black life. A committed teacher, Dr. Reese was the recipient of the 2020-21 Friar Centennial Teaching Fellowship.