As the South Goes… Racial Capitalism and Organizing Against the Plantation Regime in the U.S. South

Type: Paper
Theme: Black Geographies
Sponsor Groups: Black Geographies Specialty Group, Socialist and Critical Geography Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM (Eastern Standard Time)
Room: Napoleon D3, Sheraton 3rd Floor
Organizers: Caroline Keegan, Carrie Freshour
Chairs: Caroline Keegan


For many folks across the US, the election was a crisis of sorts, a strengthening of the political Right and a consolidation of xenophobic, racist, power. The knee-jerk reaction for many liberal Democrats and self-declared radicals was to distinguish themselves from the abhorred racists - “those people” over there, down South, the rednecks, the closed-minded bigots - to argue that this was not America. Yet, for many long time organizers engaged in grassroots economic justice, racial justice, and immigrant rights organizing across the US South, the election came as no surprise; they were never lulled to sleep by the failed promise of US liberalism, meritocracy, or the American Dream. In the US settler-colonial state, the exploitation of racialized labor has been, and continues to be, foundational to the survival of capitalism (Day 2016). Particular to the US South, the configurations of racial capitalism (Robinson [1983] 2000) are rooted in the plantation tradition (Woods 1998, 2017) which works by “preserving racial inequality, class inequality, social militarization, and a disarticulated economy geared toward cheapening the value of labor” (Woods 2017: 474). Racial hierarchies continue to shape the division of labor and the uneven production of space. This process, however, has long been countered by collective organizing to resist precarity and demand dignity. Often lacking broad institutional support and struggling for funding, these movements, past and present, are not wholly determined, but self-determining. Economic justice, racial justice, immigrant rights, and labor movements in the South mobilize counternarratives to create a more economically- and racially-just landscape in the South. In so doing, they undermine the plantation logic (McKittrick 2013) of production and open up spaces “for thinking about how practices of subjugation are socially produced and evidence of a larger, unfinished, geographic story” (McKittrick 2006: 90).

Without reinforcing myths of Southern Exceptionalism, we are interested in papers that explore political organizing that confronts racial capitalism in the US South, and how such movements may, borrowing from Robin D.G. Kelley’s introduction of Freedom Dreams (2002), “generate new knowledge, new theories, new questions,” given that “the most radical ideas often grow out of a concrete intellectual engagement with the problems of aggrieved populations confronting systems of oppression.” In challenging the conditions of racial capitalism, collective struggle in the South highlights the alterability of spaces and workplaces, and the opportunities for what McKittrick (2006) calls “humanly workable geographies” (xxiii). This is the stuff of Freedom Dreams, those “political spaces where the energies of love and imagination are understood and respected as powerful social forces” (Kelley, 2002: 4). For this session we are broadly interested in papers that focus on anti-racist, economic justice, immigrant rights, and/or labor organizing movements, with a regional focus in the US South. Possible topics may include but are not limited to:

- Struggles for solidarity-building across racial/ethnic/citizenship-status divides
- Emerging worker-centered “labor movements”
- Resource-building, funding, and institutionalization in grassroots organizing
- Historical struggles to reshape the South
- The politics of rural racial capitalism
- Intersecting movements (education, housing, healthcare, food, labor, mass incarceration, deportation)
- Uneven urban geographies and anti-gentrification movements

Day, I. 2016. Alien Capital: Asian Racialization and the Logic of Settler Colonial Capitalism.
Duke University Press.
Kelley, R. D. G. 2002. Freedom Dreams: the Black Radical Imagination. Boston: Beacon Press.
McKittrick, K. 2006. Demonic grounds: Black women and the cartographies of
struggle.Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
---. “Plantation Futures.” Small Axe 17.3 (2013): 1-15.
Robinson, C. J. 2000. Black marxism: the making of the Black radical tradition. Chapel Hill,
N.C.: University of North Carolina Press.
Woods, C. A. 1998. Development arrested: the blues and plantation power in the Mississippi
Delta. London: Verso.
---. 2017. Development Drowned and Reborn: The Blues and Bourbon Restoration in
Post-Katrina New Orleans. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Caroline Keegan*, University of Georgia, Mobilizing Against the Plantation Bloc: Economic Justice and Cross-Racial Alliances in New Orleans 20 8:00 AM
Presenter Carrie Freshour*, Cornell University, The Mundane of Movements 20 8:20 AM
Presenter Antonio Tovar*, Farmworker Association of Florida, Joan Flocks, University of Florida, College of Law, A Web of Immigration and Labor Regulation and How it Binds Farmworkers 20 8:40 AM
Presenter Julia Gunn*, University of Pennsylvania, Domestic Workers and the Historical Limits of Racial Moderation in the Urban Sunbelt 20 9:00 AM

To access contact information login