Sugar plantations, Chemical Plants, COVID-19

Illustration by Kora Fortun.

The chemical plants in Cancer Alley are built where there once were sugar plantations. Descendants of enslaved communities still live nearby.

Cancer Alley powerfully illustrates historically produced vulnerability and disadvantage. It also provides powerful examples of Black resistance and resourcefulness.

In conversation with people who live and work in Cancer Alley, the tour describes an exemplary case of environmental injustice and racism, contributing to a digital archive that will help connect communities facing environmental injustice in California, North Carolina, Taiwan, India, and elsewhere around the world.

This collection is designed as a virtual tour with stops and stories at the Whitney Plantation (focused on the lives and perspectives of enslaved people in Louisiana), the Fee-Fo-Lay Cafe (where community knowledge is shared and the region’s storytelling traditions are preserved), and places where community members are organizing resistance to the building of yet another petrochemical facility in the area, on a former plantation site. The Formosa Plastics facility is now on hold due to a temporary restraining order (issued in June 2020) to protect the graves of enslaved people on the site.

The tour is a project of the University of California Irvine’s Illuminations Program and Department of Anthropology’s undergraduate class, “Environmental Injustice.” The project extends partnerships between UCI researchers associated with the Disaster-STS Network, the Whitney Plantation Museum, and a diverse coalition of grassroots environmental organizations. These partnerships were established in the 2019 Quotidian Anthropocene Project, carried out in association with the Haus der Kulturen der Welt and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin’s Anthropocene Curriculum Project.


Creative Commons Licence

Teaching keywords

historic disadvantage; plantations-to-plants; challenges of multinational corporation accountability; COVID-19


UCI Illuminations


Anthropocene Curriculum, organized by Haus der Kulturen der Welt and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science

Created date

September 29, 2020