In memory of Andrew Opitz (1975 – 2015)
This special issue of darkmatter is dedicated to Andrew Opitz, who sadly passed away during the final stages of the editing. Andrew had initiated the project arguing that ‘sustainability’ had become an important buzzword in recent years, but found that most discussions of the topic steer clear of the neocolonial economics and racial politics that serve as major obstacles to sustainable development and efforts to mitigate the miseries caused by climate change. He suggested that a special issue of darkmatter could make an important intervention in this crucial area.
Andrew had guest edited darkmatter #5: Pirates and Piracy in 2009 while teaching at the University of Minnesota. He had since moved to Honolulu to take a position at Hawai’i Pacific University, where he applied his interest in Caribbean economic and cultural developments to the plantation history of the Hawaiian islands and the ongoing impact of this history on Hawaiian politics and land use.
The special issue explores how racial politics born of colonial and neocolonial relations of production influence current debates about sustainability, food security, and efforts to address global climate change. Academic and governmental discussions about these pressing international problems often focus rather narrowly on diagnoses and solutions drawn from the natural sciences — new strategies for rooftop agriculture, water recycling, carbon capture technologies or genetically modified fish stocks, for example. However, twenty-first century barriers to sustainability cannot be fully addressed without also grappling with patterns of land use, economic development and social inequality rooted in the colonial past.
The issue transverses a number of key topics: the geopolitics of ecological and environmental justice; the fictional re-imaginings of neocolonial violence and subaltern subjectivity; the indigenous and gendered resistance to corporate biofuels, land use, and sustainable food security; to the exploitation of fair trade within the limits of neoliberal education and development. The wide range and scope of the articles together offer an innovative and singular ‘mapping’ of the racialized economic structures and cultural politics shaping current debates about sustainability and global climate change. The special issue is a fitting tribute to Andrew’s commitment to critical thought and social justice.