Core sample, or where I come from


Kara Thompson holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of California Davis, and is currently an assistant professor of English and American Studies at the College of William and Mary. Her book Blanket (Bloomsbury) will be published in Fall 2018.

The Black Hills of present-day South Dakota. He Sapa, the homelands of the Lakota Oyate and the Oceti Sakowin. I'm currently working on a project for an upcoming workshop at the Rachel Carson center. The workshop's theme is "Radical Hope: Inspiring Sustainability through Our Past." And the working title of my piece is "For Love." Here's an excerpt, which offers a sense of my relationship to the Black Hills, to origins:

What does it mean to love a place? By that, I don’t mean to love a place to visit, as in a favorite city, a national park for the annual vacation, the perfect camping spot. I mean to love a place like one is supposed to love a person. And I don’t mean to love a place like it’s a person. I mean to love a place instead of loving another person. 

Like hope, love risks trite or sentimental engagement. Love makes bad art—everyone prefers the breakup record. But I propose an experiment: to write and talk about land, property, propertied relations—conditions brought about by power and trespass, illegal habitation—in terms of love. Love in the age of toxicity, extinction, and extraction. This project offers what Lauren Berlant would call “a properly political concept of love,” by way of conditions that only seem to produce our deepest fears, the worst versions of our human capacities.

I wonder if when settlers write of their attachments to place, of the five generations that have lived and cultivated the land, they express a form of love at the expense of another, where “love” equals property and inheritance. Perhaps property and all that it makes possible (surplus value, an economy of extraction, personal wealth) pass as love. Or property even comes to stand in for love and its cognates (family, a domestic space). This project aims to crack open the synecdoche between land and love. 

Homestake mine in Lead, South Dakota. Now transformed into a laboratory in search of Dark Matter. Yes, this will be a future project about speculation.

The photos here capture best my theoretical, political, aesthetic affiliations: narratives of origin and Native/Indigenous survivance, rocks and other inhuman things, mining and resource extraction, settler colonialism, decolonization, the queerness of home. 

I think with art and theory, and delight in the indistinguishable seams between the two.

I write by intuition--a sense that things otherwise unrelated somehow cohere in language, etymologies, psychic displacements, appropriations.