Wake Work and Capital's Littoral Edge: Black beyond Property

Authors: Rachel Goffe*, Temple University
Topics: Third World, Ethnicity and Race
Keywords: property,informal tenure,global south,jamaica
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Maryland A, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Contemporary scholarship on “work outside the wage” often frames analysis in emergent terms—scholarship from the global north tends to position the “gig economy” as a feature of neoliberalism, whereas scholarship regarding the majority world tends to position “the informal” and surplus humanity in longer-term but still relatively recent encounters. Through an investigation of life in an informal settlement in Jamaica, this paper instead situates the partial accomplishment of social reproduction “outside the wage” in the long history of the Black Atlantic. As far back as the 17th century, Black life in Jamaica oscillated between export crops and food crops. The post-emancipation erasure of ‘King crop’s’ reliance on Black work on the plot inaugurated the historical production of a Black labor force that is self-sufficient and yet ready at hand. I argue that rather than expiring, the mobility between and tethering together of plot and plantation have been reformulated in different conjunctures. Current land reform recuperates earlier anticolonial reconstruction but attempts to devolve reform to a well-meaning incitement of “community,” envisioned as a corrective to the “corrupt” postcolonial state. At my field site this work left leaders exhausted from the effort of trying to bring into being the community-based legal structures required to achieve legitimacy. In some tension with theories that see this kind of relation as a mobility across the edge of capitalism, I instead articulate the tethering together of plot and plantation as central to capitalism through Black and Marxist feminist as well as postcolonial theoretical frameworks.

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