Lauret Savoy, “Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape”

Event Description

Sand and stone are Earth’s fragmented memory. Each of us is also a landscape inscribed by memory and loss. Lauret Savoy’s Trace interweaves journeys and historical inquiry across a continent and time to explore how this country’s still unfolding history has marked the land, this society, and her. From twisted terrain within the San Andreas Fault zone to a South Carolina plantation, from national parks to burial grounds to names on the land, from “Indian Territory” and the U.S.-Mexico Border to the U.S. capital, Trace grapples with a searing national history to reveal the often-unvoiced presence of the past. Lauret will offer elements from this book and introduce her current project on the Chesapeake region. The new work braids histories of the land and of “race” using as a lens her search for ancestors, lives entwined by converging diasporas from Africa, Indigenous America, and the Indian Ocean basin with immigrants from Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Their stories are entangled with the rise and fall of tobacco agriculture and the origin and growth of the capital city along the Potomac River. Lauret delves through fragmented histories—geological, personal, cultural—to find shadowy outlines of other stories of place in America. She asks, what is your relationship with history, told and untold, on this land?


Headshot of Lauret Savoy wearing a straw hat against an ocean scene.Lauret Savoy‘s research and writing consider how the nation’s ever-unfolding history has marked the land and people. Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape won the 2016 American Book Award; it was a finalist for PEN American and additional honors. Her other books include The Colors of Nature: Culture, Identity, and the Natural World and Bedrock: Writers on the Wonders of Geology, named one of the “Five Best” science books in the Wall Street Journal. Lauret writes of the complex intertwinings of natural and cultural histories to understand the American land’s origins—and the stories we tell of ourselves in this land. A woman of African American, Euro-American, and Indigenous heritages, Lauret is the David B. Truman Professor of Environmental Studies & Geology at Mount Holyoke College.  Winner of Mount Holyoke’s Distinguished Teaching Award and an Andrew Carnegie Fellowship, Lauret has also held fellowships from the Smithsonian Institution and Yale University.  She is a Fellow of the Geological Society of America and a pilot.


This program is co-sponsored by the GSD, the Environment Forum at the Mahindra Humanities Center, and the Salata Institute for Climate and Sustainability.


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