The materiality and metaphor of plantation agriculture: Solastalgia and rhythms of production and destruction

Authors: Jean-Francois Bissonnette*,
Topics: Agricultural Geography, Anthropocene, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: agriculture, ethics, anthropocene, capitalism, productivism
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 geological era of ‘Plantationocene’ means colossal losses in biodiversity, ecosystem complexity, local ecological knowledge. The ‘Plantationocene’ could be more accurately captured by the term ‘Thanatocene’. From a historical perspective, the plantation epitomizes, perhaps more than any other mass-scale environmental changes, the logic of capital accumulation, and its corollary principles of securitization and mobility. The plantation, in its materiality, is both the order that stands on the destruction of previous ecosystems, and the disorder prevented only at the cost massive amounts of labour and chemical inputs. Yet the plantation is productive, it is used by some to reorder the living and non-living to generate a limited number of tradeable outputs over large areas. As a result, a large number of human lives are enmeshed in the assemblages that formed around it. Peoples who have experienced a territory before it became a plantation, or who are able to imagine what used to be, may be experiencing solastalgia, if subjectively they are deprived of the very essence of their environment. Solastalgia in this case, not being able to find solace in the environment, is grounded in a territory, the materiality of soil, water, vegetation, insects that have been radically altered. This paper seeks to contribute to efforts to theorize the plantationocene, in doing so it addresses the plantation both in its materiality and as a metaphor of production and destruction rythms in capitalist agriculture. The paper also addresses the banalization of environmental destruction.

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