This text calls for a disruption of metanarratives surrounding (ethnographic) place and the manners in which it is mapped out and understood. The text demands an exploration of what is beyond existing geographical landscapes. One such example she presents is Marie-Joseph Angelique's story in Canada. She connects Angelique’s story to geography, asserting that her alleged arson creates a terrain through which other black geographies are produced: the geographies of Montreal were produced in tandem with, rather than without, black captivity, labor, and subjectivity. Her story overturns the geographies of nation-purity to permit a different spatializing of Canada, showing how practices of domination both disrupt and enable black Canadian geographies through re-narration.
"Geography is not, however, secure and unwavering; we produce space, we produce its meanings, and we work very hard to make geography what it is...We make concealment happen..." (xi).
"...the politics of black geographies expose racial disavowal on spatial terms: what is seemingly not there, is; what is geographically missing for some is geographically relevant to others" (18).
"Recognizing black women's knowledgeable positions as integral to physical, cartographic, and experiential geographies within and through dominant spatial models also creates an analytical space for black feminist geographies: black women's political, feminist imaginary, and creative concerns that respatialize the geographic legacy of racism-sexim" (53).
"...it is not simply a marginal spatial-partial vantage point that divulges the workings of black womanhood or black feminism or feminism. And this is exactly where feminism(s) and other identity-theories sometimes get stuck, by recycling and politicizing biocentric modes of humanity in the margins, in the classroom, in theory; this emphasizes that hierarchical genres of human/gender difference will somehow complete the story. Instead, it is useful to imagine the ways in which the margin is a serious conceptual intervention into what it means to be/not be a black woman: the margin is part of the story, not the end of the story" (134).
One crucial example McKittrick presents is when she traces Sylvia Wynter’s argument regarding the invention of Man, asserting that present orders of existence center on discourses of normalcy. It is the development and mapping of the uninhabitable and uneven archipelagos that reveal important ways in which Man’s geographies are overrepresented. Whereas Man1 dehumanized and disembodied subaltern populations by conflating their beingness with terra nullius, Man2 sought to guarantee in its middle-class model a foundation for a “normal being” and what needed to come under racial-sexual regulation. She argues that examining Man’s geographies reveals the limitations of existing geographic arrangements. Demonic grounds, on the other hand, put forth a geographic grammar that locates the complex position and potentiality of black women’s sense of place. She introduces music as a geographic act through which blackness can be read as a meaningful part of the landscape. She asserts that black women’s geographies challenge the “just is” of traditional geography, indicating an alterability of “the ground beneath our feet.” She claims that local-contextual experiences might be read beyond the margins, as part of an interhuman story that unhinges the body-self and expresses new forms of life that contest historically present, uneven, genres of human geography. Black women’s geographies and poetics challenge us to “stay human,” invoking how black spaces/places are integral to multiscalar geographic stories and how the question of seeable human differences put spatial and philosophical demands on geography.
McKittrick powerfully critiques traditional (white, patriarchal) and naturalized geographic knowledge, building off Gilroy’s The Black Atlantic to site/cite a different sense of place for black identities: as part, but not completely, of material and imaginative configurations of geography. Equipped with Sylvia Wynter’s notion of “demonic grounds,” she asserts black women’s historical-contextual locations within geographic organizations. Using an interdisciplinary approach, McKittrick does not seek to “discover” black women on the margins, but to address the unrepresentability of black femininity and ways black women contribute to a re-presentation of human geography. Poetics of landscape lends a critique the boundaries of transatlantic slavery, rewrites national narratives, respatializes feminism, and develops new pathways across traditional geographic arrangements, reconceptualizing space/place to discover more humanely workable geographies. Examining the interplay between geographies of domination and black women’s geographies in Canada, the U.S., and the Caribbean, she critiques the spatial project of domination that organizes social difference, implicating black subjects through crude racial-sexual hierarchies. To contend with unjust categorizations, she pushes for ethical human-geographic formulations that subaltern communities advance via a grammar of liberation.