Lucie Fortuin
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June 13, 2023

Re / turning

Return: to go back or come back again. While working on my Master’s thesis on weather and intuition in 2018, I came across the work of Astrida Neimanis. Neimanis is a cultural theorist working at the intersection of feminism and environmental change. Specifically, her research considers the way our surroundings affect being through the concept of “weathering” (Neimanis and Hamilton 560). [1] Return: a means for conveying something (such as water) back to its starting point. Borrowing from Karen Barad, Neimanis proposes the notion of weathering as a means to describe “the intra-active process of mutual becoming” through which “humans and climate come to matter” (560). 

Return: taking place for the second time. Three years later, whilst reading selected material for a keynote lecture held by Neimanis in the summer of 2021, I realised that Neimanis was still, or again, working with and on the concept of weathering. Return: to go back in thought, practice, or condition. Neimanis’ return made me reconsider my own research practice. Perhaps out of habit, and definitely out of interest, I often find myself reverting to previous research: I reread texts, running over the same thoughts, themes, and ideas. But this routine of revistiation also makes me question how we relate to our past work: what gaps and absences are there to find? Which projections to be rewritten? And could the praxis of returning, rather than being a habit, a lingering of sorts, also prove to be a productive and critical research method? 

Turn: to affect or alter the functioning of (something, such as a mechanical device) or the level of (something, such as sound) by such movement. In the act of returning, of going back, one moves, and with this essay, I would like to consider returning as a means to instigate this movement. By this I mean to use returning as a method to open, to alter, deepen, further; to turn. Specifically, I look at the movement of re/turn [2] in intersectional feminist practices and question what the implications are in re/turning to earlier thought(s). 

I open the text with a discussion on the evolution of Neimanis’ understanding of, and writings on “weathering.” Re/turning to her earlier work seems to thicken the concept itself.  I then give a close-reading of “return” in the work of critical race scholar Christina Sharpe, who uses the term when discussing the effects of the Atlantic Slave trade in response to Dionne Brand’s novel: “A Map to the Door of No Return”. In rewriting, Sharpe’s thinking has become foundational to Neimanis’ weathering. Please note that, as a Black scholar of slavery and its afterlives, the implications of Sharpe’s return induce much larger questions than when reading return as an act of a single scholar, as I do when reflecting on Neimanis’ work. What is of interest to me is rather the movement of re/turning; of going back. 


In “open space: weathering” Jennifer Hamilton and Astrida Neimanis write: 

Weathering is a particular way of understanding how bodies, places and the weather are all inter-implicated in our climate-changing world. Weathering describes socially, culturally, politically and materially differentiated bodies in relation to the materiality of place, across a thickness of historical, geological and climatological time. (81) 

The text was published in 2018 and echoes earlier descriptions by Neimanis of the concept of weathering: “it is through weathering – the intra-active process of a mutual becoming – that humans and climate change come to matter”, she writes together with Rachel Loewen Walker in 2014 (560). Neimanis goes on to describe the way in which weather and world are intertwined in a mutual process of becoming – we are “weather bodies” (560). Considering these ‘weather bodies’, Neimanis takes note of the differentiation between these bodies, in the 2014 text: “In fact, it is in explicit recognition of the ways in which bodies are differently situated in relation to climate change that we call for greater attention to our own weathering” (562). With the differentiation between bodies, something also emphasised in the 2018 citation I started with, it seems clear that Neimanis and Walker call for an intersectional understanding of weathering: “Weathering describes socially, culturally, politically and materially differentiated bodies” (81, emphasis added). But, if in nature their argument remains in place, why return to the same concept? 

“One of the most important contributions that intersectionality has made in feminist scholarship is that it helps identify the inevitable blind spots that every researcher has when doing her or his research,” writes sociologist Kathy Davis (25). Inevitable blind spots. In order to find such moments of broken or incomplete vision, we must spend time with our work. Revisit it: return to concepts, literature, and methodology and therewith “ask the other questions” (Davis 18). The narrative of the opening paragraph of “open space: weathering” finishes as follows: 

A settler invasion gives way to skyrocketing property prices to continue a history of dispossession. Nonetheless, many aboriginal people displaced from rural locations still live with and care for this river, sometimes in solidarity with local school groups, families, and organisations seeking to help communities around Pine Avenue and the Cooks weather differently. (80) 

In returning to the notion of weathering, Neimanis puts into practice feminist accountability and furthers intersectional thought into methodology; giving space to the lived reality of ‘weather bodies,’ each with its own entwined relation to their surroundings. I would feel uncomfortable reading Neimanis’ return to weathering as the noticing or recognition of a blind spot. Perhaps a furthering; a deepening of their earlier statements on intersectionality, an adjustment of methodology? A weathering. In addition to the writing itself, rather than referring to new materialist and posthumanist scholars to build their argument, in 2018 Neimanis and Hamilton have shifted to citing theorists to whom intersectional thought is constituent of their writings. Referring to the work of Christina Sharpe, they write: 

This mix of sociopolitical inheritances and structures intra-acting with more-than-human conditions is what critical race scholar Christina Sharpe calls ‘the total climate’; ‘weather is the totality of our environments—naturalcultural, all the way down. As Sharpe argues, in the wake of slavery (which persists in various mutated forms to this day), black bodies must continue surviving, or weathering, the total climate that is anti-blackness (81).

Turning to Sharpe’s work is not a mere change of method; rather, it seems an actual entering into the “inter-implication” of those differentiated weather bodies; by attending to how white supremacy and its construction of race sustain the total climate of anti-blackness, the work opens up to the thickness of time. Returning to their text and reconsidering the concept can be read as a way to bridge Black and white feminist practices [3] and therewith Neimanis’ theoretical shift forms an integral part to her understanding of weathering from its very conception when they understand it as an “intra-active process of mutual becoming”: re / turning and re / writing weather the work.

Reading Neimanis’ references as an invitation to further my own research, I turn to Christina Sharpe’s book In the Wake: On Blackness and Being. “To return,” she asks at its start, “is it possible to return?” (13). Neimanis and Hamilton remind their readers not to take the experience of others out of context when they write: “survivance, like Sharpe’s conception of ‘being in the wake,’ has its own vital history. It is therefore not ours to wrench from its context, but it can teach us about the importance of articulating a mode of being that can acknowledge injustice, damage done” (82). Writing from the Netherlands — one of the instigators of the Atlantic slave trade — I find importance in reading Sharpe’s words closely: “To return, is it possible to return?” In answering she writes: one encounters “a past that is not past,” referencing Dionne Brand’s novel A Map to the Door of No Return  (13). The “door of no return” central to Brand’s novel is a bleak reminder of the door of no return that marked the passageway to Atlantic slave ships. If in the introduction to this essay I ask what the implications of returning to earlier thought are, a necessary question is: what does it mean to re / turn to a history of violence? Sharpe writes:

It is at that point, post the ‘rupture in the world,’ at which, Brand tells us, we [Black bodies], whether we made that passage or not, are transformed into being. ‘That one door, the door of no return, transformed us into bodies emptied of being, bodies emptied of self-interpretation, into which new interpretations could be placed.’ (32) 

Brand describes a violent rupture that renders a return impossible. Instead, it enforces one into emptiness: ‘emptied of being, of self-interpretation’. When we tend to the question of re / turning in relation to knowledge and the production thereof it is imperative to consider the epistemic violence on which it is built: what is there to go back to when that which was there carries no meaning after “the rupture in the world”? Addressing the making of theory, Sharpe writes: “For Black academics to produce legible work in the academy often means adhering to research methods that are ‘drafted into the service of a larger destructive force’, thereby doing violence to our own capacities to read, think, and imagine otherwise. Despite knowing otherwise, we are often disciplined into thinking through and along lines that reinscribe our own annihilation” (13). Despite knowing otherwise. 

A thickening. In time thoughts are formulated and things settle, but also they break, hurt, shatter. When looking for new forms of knowledge production for scholars of slavery Sharpe writes: “We must become undisciplined. The work we do requires new modes and methods of research and teaching; new ways of entering and leaving the archives of slavery, of undoing the ‘racial calculus and … political arithmetic that were entrenched centuries ago’, and that live into the present” (13). When attempting to become undisciplined in the thickening of time, it is precisely its shattering and breaking that could show to be useful: Re / turn in order to enter the archives. Re / turn in an effort to disturb what is there. Re / turn as a method to question. Re / turn as a means to unsettle established frames and prior thought. Re / turn as an act of reparative care. Yet still, through solely re / turning, the question remains: When academic legibility adheres to the logics of this violent rupture, how to find a language, a method, a writing, how to make and practice knowledge within those contours? It seems to be precisely in the acknowledgement of temporality, of different temporalities, that returning both becomes meaningful and painfully loses its meaning. Is there a way through which re / turn still serves as an effective method in the critical reflection of thought? 

In the final chapter of In the Wake, “The Weather,” Sharpe writes: “The weather necessitates changeability and improvisation; it is the atmospheric condition of time and place; it produces new ecologies. When the only certainty is the weather that produces a pervasive climate of anti-blackness, what must we know in order to move through these environments?” (106). The production of new ecologies then seems to demand new ways of being, knowing differently, “an unscientific method,”  and turning as a method to thicken, although perhaps an effective starting point to recognise blind spots and find what might be absent, it hardly seems to answer to the call of making new knowledges (13). What is essential to move through the weather is “a way-making tool, a gift of knowledge,” and it is the continuous surviving of Black life, the constant resistance of scholars of slavery and the ongoing act of worldmaking that comes to show for the regenerative strength of this ‘way-making tool’ (107). Perhaps then, rather than re / turning to something that was already there, “undoing the racial calculus” calls for re / doing. A practice of (re)making. Could we read Sharpe’s notion of wake work as this new approach? She writes: “I’ve been trying to articulate a method of encountering a past that is not past. I’ve been thinking of gathering, collecting and reading toward a new analytic, as the wake and wake work” (13)? Wake work encourages us to approach differently, in the production of way-making tools, wake work could be read as the making of a new language, re / doing then could be an effort to attend to history that lives on into the present moment, whilst developing anew. “Gathering, collecting and reading toward a new analytic” when read in this light, could be a way to weather: “Those in the wake also produce out of the weather their own ecologies” (106). 

As a writer I often fear I am too slow. As though I need too much time (again and again) and that the methods I have at hand fail to answer my questions; leaving no space for changeability and improvisation. Thinking Sharpe and Neimanis together I read: “weathering provides a way of thinking what erosion by the total climate of anti-blackness and settler colonialism means and does. It speaks to the experience of withstanding while living within; of subjection and resistance while being incapable of completely escaping.” [4] Writing this essay as an effort to change my own approach to thought and thinking, and to learn to recognise my own blind spots, I hope that re / doing could be a method of withstanding while living within. Of subjection and resistance.


  1.  “Disturbances and Interventions. Contemporary Practices of Gender Research.” Summer school in gender studies organised by the University of Groningen.

  1. Re/turn emphasises the movement of the verb and simultaneously highlights the presence of the prefix re-: “again; anew; back; backward.” (“re-, prefix.” Merriam-Webster.)

  1.  In “The Weather Underwater: Blackness, White Feminism, and the Breathless Sea”, Neimanis explores the ocean “as a speculative meeting place between black feminist poetics and white feminism” (490).

  1. Bremner, Lindsay. “Weathering, Weathermaking.” e-flux, June 2021. Accessed 11 November 2022. 

Works Cited

Bremner, Lindsay. “Weathering, Weathermaking.” e-flux, June 2021. Accessed 11 November 2022. 

Hemmings, Clare. “Invoking Affect.” Cultural Studies, vol. 19, no. 5, 2005, pp. 548-567. 

Davis, Kathy. “Intersectionality as Critical Methodology.” Writing Academic Texts Differently: Intersectional Feminist Methodologies and the Playful Art of Writing, edited by Nina Lykke, Routledge, 2014, pp. 17-29. 

Neimanis, Astrida and Rachel Loewen Walker. “Weathering: Climate Change and the ‘Thick Time’ of Transcorporeality. Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy, vol. 29, no. 3, 2014, pp. 558-575. 

Neimanis, Astrida and Jennifer Mae Hamilton. “Open Space: Weathering.” The Feminist Review Collective, vol. 118. no. 1, 2018, pp. 80-84. 

Neimanis, Astrida. “The Weather Underwater: Blackness, White Feminism, and the Breathless Sea.” Australian Feminist Studies, vol. 34, no. 102, 2019, pp. 490–508.

Neimanis, Astrida. “Weather Writing: A New Materialist Practice for (Getting Outside) the Classroom.” draft published by Neimanis: 

“re-, prefix.” Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 April 2023.

“Return, verb.” Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 September 2022. 

Sharpe, Christina. In the Wake: On Blackness and Being. Duke University Press, 2016. 

“Turn, verb.” Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 September 2022.


Lucie Fortuin is a writer and researcher with a specific interest in collaborative works and speculative writing. She holds an MA in Critical Studies from the Sandberg Institute, Amsterdam, and obtained a BA in Literary Studies from the University of Amsterdam. Her work has appeared in Perdu, de Appel, Manifold Books, et al. She is currently an editor at DIG

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