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This refiguring of slaves trafficked to gold mines is borne into the language of the inhuman, whereupon Blackness becomes characterized through its ledger of matter, which in turn populates the idea of race.Extending Wynter’s argument, 1492 marks also the structural inclusion of Man’s Others into the geological lexicon of the inhuman (as matter and energy) and the exclusion from its material wealth, whereby humanness becomes differentiated by the inhuman objectification of indigenous and black subjects.Coloniality cuts across both flesh and earth in the economies of valuation it established, exacting an “incorporative exclusion from space” for the colonized as subjective agents and agents of geography.Indigenous genocide and removal from land and enslavement are prerequisites for power becoming operationalized in premodernity, a way in which subjects get (what Wynter names) “selected” or “dysselected” from geography and coded into colonial possession through dispossession.Here the enslaved are coded in parallel with material extraction under the guise of exchange.
“Black Metamorphosis,” 1452 Wynter suggests that we should in fact consider 1452 as the beginning of the New World, as African slaves are put to work on the first plantations on the Portuguese island of Madeira, initiating the “sugar–slave” complex—a massive replantation of ecologies and forced relocation of people (existing ecologies were not immune to the ravages of the new invaders, from plants and domestic animals to microbiomes and new geomorphic regimes).
As Europeans invaded the Caribbean, deforming and decimating the indigenous “Caribs,” they began to use the islands as an experimental archipelago in terms of both the social organization of categories of human the ecological arrangements of flora and fauna.
The invasion of Europeans in the Americas resulted in a massive genocide of the indigenous population, leading to a decline from 54 million people in the Americas in 1492 to approximately 6 million in 1650, a result of murder, enslavement, famine, and disease.
This spike of brutality, sadism, and death, coupled with the subsequent dispossession of indigenous peoples from their land and the beginnings of industrial global slavery, enacts a foundational spatial inscription of colonialism (and race) into a monument of global environmental change.
Inscribed in this origin of the Anthropocene is what Michael Taussig calls a “space of death.” That is, the fungibility of Blackness and geologic resources (as land, minerals, and ores) is coeval, predicated on the ability of the colonizer to both describe and operationalize world-space as a global entity.
Weheliye argues, “In black culture this category becomes a designation that shows its finitudes and exclusions very clearly, thereby denaturalizing the ‘human’ as a universal formation while at the same time laying claim to it.” In reclaiming humanity as a heuristic operation rather than an ontological formation, Wynter plots the historic formation of Man as a racialized subject that is exclusionary at the point of origin, and precisely because of the history of those murderous origins.