Plantationocene Legacies and Disaster Capitalism: Reworking the Caribbean Socio-Natural Metabolism

Authors: Jeff Popke*, East Carolina University
Topics: Anthropocene, Energy, Agricultural Geography
Keywords: Plantation, Caribbean, Disaster Capitalism, Agriculture, Energy
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Directors Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The contemporary Caribbean has been forged by a long history of regional change shaped by outside interests. Central to this history has been the plantation model, which fundamentally transformed Antillean societies, cultures, and ecologies, and has continued to serve as an idiom for contemporary understandings of the region. Drawing upon fieldwork focused around Caribbean agriculture and energy transitions, I argue in this paper that the plantation imaginary provides a valuable lens for thinking through the region’s ongoing challenges to achieve meaningful forms of sovereignty and autonomy in the context of neoliberal globalization and disaster capitalism. I develop the plantation model through the concept of socio-natural metabolism, as a means to consider the networked materialities and relations through which both agrarian life and energy have been assembled and maintained within the Caribbean region. The plantation, in this respect, speaks to a particular kind of metabolic configuration, one forged in the context of chattel slavery around coerced labor, but continuing in key respects into the present. This plantationocene legacy has been thrown into particularly stark relief in the wake of recent hurricanes in the Caribbean, as new practices of resilience and securitization seek to ensure the (re)commodification of socio-ecological relations. At the same time, the post-hurricane dislocation is opening space for new agro-ecological movements and advocates of energy democracy. Taking inspiration from such movements, I suggest how we might envision new metabolic configurations (and new forms of cooperative labor) capable of breaking from the plantation model and disaster-capitalist development.

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