In Ecowomanism at the Panamá Canal: Black Women, Labor, and Environmental Ethics, Sofia Betancourt constructs a transnational ecowomanist ethic that reclaims inherited environmental cultures across multiple sites of displacement. Betancourt argues that women in the African diaspora have a unique understanding of how a moral refusal to compromise their humanity provides the very understanding needed to survive what was once an inconceivable level of environmental devastation. This work is guided by the experiences of West Indian women, imported to Panamá by the United States from across the Caribbean, whose labor supported the building of the Panamá Canal—the so-called silver men and women who faced mud, mosquitoes, and malaria while building a literal pathway to the American empire.
Sofía Betancourt is associate dean for academic affairs at Drew University’s Theological School.
Chapter 1: Ecowomanism at the Panamá Canal
Chapter 2: Geography, Countermemory, and Resistance
Chapter 3: The Silver Sisters: Ecocreolization at the Panamá Canal
Chapter 4: Dignity and Striving: An Ecowomanist Moral Anthropology
Using the voices of displaced women on the Panamá Canal, Betancourt develops a robust ecowomanist moral anthropology based on dignity, relationality, and environmental justice. She takes the early work of ecowomanism to its next stage and invites us to join her in the challenge of stopping the environmental devastation that threatens us all. A compelling new primer for environmental justice.
Sofia Betancourt’s account of ecocreolization – shared understandings of self forged across generations and communities in the face of violence and displacement – is at once a necessary intervention in North American environmental thought and a tremendously hopeful reception of ancestral wisdom for “surviving the unimaginable".
Ecowomanism at the Panamá Canal is a healing balm in this time of climate disruption. Reclaiming the power of inherited and indigenous environmental cultures, Betancourt constructs a transnational ecowomanist ethic that holds humanity accountable, recognizes moral authority in the non-human world and offers us new hope. A deep, thought-provoking and insightful voice in ecowomanist thought, Betancourt guides us along the path of undoing harm, and recommitting our hearts to the work and practice of earth justice.
Betancourt’s transnational ecowomanist method illustrates artistry and vibrancy with its fresh insights and tracing of deep connective moral memory, mapped across diverse scholarly interrogations of culture and experiential histories of laborers. The intercultural vision of black decoloniality centered on Panama reveals an ethics of “ecocreolization” highlighting black women’s ritual practices, sexual embodiment, and innovation. This is a stunning expansion of the womanist canon.