It is with great pleasure that the Department of Geography welcomes new Assistant Professor, Dr. J.T. Roane, to Rutgers. Dr. Roane has a joint appointment in the Department of Africana Studies and is the Andrew W. Mellow Chair in the Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice. Dr. Roane received his B.A. in African American Studies from the University of Virginia and his Ph.D. in History from Columbia University. He was previously an Assistant Professor of African and African American Studies at Arizona State University and has been a dynamic leader of new scholarly interest in Black Ecologies. Dr. Roane's book, Dark Agoras: Insurgent Black Social Life and the Politics of Place, is forthcoming with NYU Press. Dr. Roane is a 2022-23 Faculty Fellow in the School of Social Sciences in the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. He begins teaching in Fall 2023.

Asher Ghertner recently caught up with Dr. Roane to ask him to share a bit about his path to Rutgers Geography and his future plans.

What is a class you’re looking forward to teaching at Rutgers?

I'm excited to teach a course on Black Ecologies at Rutgers. 

What led you to geography?

My intellectual journey began in Africana Studies. That field--because of Diasporic histories/geographies including histories of forced mobility, captivity, maroonage, and various efforts at independent worldmaking--is essentially spatial. It drew me into geography.


Is there a place or field that was particularly formative in shaping your research trajectory and abiding commitments?

Rural sections of the Tidewater region of Virginia, which I consider home, have shaped my approach to place and my research trajectory. I realized when I left, that I took distinctive ways of marking and understanding place with me to urban and other less familiar geographies. It has also been important work to demystify my view of home given that what could be mistaken for a pristine verdant landscape has endured and continues to endure ecological and social devastation tied to extractivist economies that originate with plantation slavery. 


What authors have strongly influenced your work, in general or in recent months?

Sarah Haley, LaShawn Harris, Cheryl Hicks, Ruthie Gilmore, and Farah Jasmine Griffin have all influenced my work tremendously. 


What main writing project(s) lie ahead?

I am at work on two book projects, one on the political ecology of fire in 1980s-1990s Philadelphia tentatively titled "Fire, Philadelphia" and another tentatively titled "Black Ecologies, Tidewater, Virginia" centering Black rural worldmaking and ecologies from Jim Crow to the present.


Do anything interesting this summer?

I participated in a three-week NEH Seminar held at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington DC centering Black and Indigenous landscapes and placemaking.