Towards a Global Geography of the Plantation

Type: Panel
Sponsor Groups: Black Geographies Specialty Group, Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group, Socialist and Critical Geography Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM (Eastern Standard Time)
Room: Directors Room, Omni, West
Organizers: Levi Van Sant, Sophie Moore
Chairs: Carrie Freshour


“Plantations are back,” Tania Li proclaimed in 2017. The wave of oil palm expansion that Li identifies in Indonesia signals a broader resurgence of the plantation across geographies of the Global South. The plantation has likewise come to the forefront as a category of analysis for theorizing relations of land, labor, and capital in a planetary frame. “The Plantationocene” has, in this vein, recently emerged as an epochal nomination, joining such concepts as the Anthropocene and the Capitalocene in identifying particular inflection points for the ecological devastation and global crises of the present (Haraway 2015; Tsing 2016; Moore 2017). Yet, as geographers have pointed out, such theorizations only tangentially, if at all, address the spatial dimensions of how plantation power has shaped our world, often ignoring the very circuits of racial capitalism that reproduce plantation power in the present. The current proliferation of theoretical engagements with various “-cenes,” moreover, risks reducing critical engagements with plantation power to an abstract exercise in naming that is detached from grounded struggles.

In this panel, we ask how traditions of geographic thought rooted in a global plantation zone might challenge and expand the plantationocene concept, in particular turning attention to the spatiality of the racialized forms of power that have shaped the plantation and its histories. Building on Black geographers’ theorization of the plantation and its futures in the context of the Americas (McKittrick 2011; 2013; McKittrick and Woods 2007), we aim to bring into conversation a range of geographic approaches for thinking through the possibilities and limits of the plantationocene concept. While there are growing bodies of literature on the plantation in the Americas, Africa, South and Southeast Asia, this scholarship most often remains regionally circumscribed. We hope to stimulate comparative, transnational, and theoretical discussion on the global history of the plantation. Thus, we welcome empirically and theoretically oriented interventions that will help us to think through the geographies of a global plantation zone that links the Americas, Africa, South and Southeast Asia, and their diasporas.


Type Details Minutes
Panelist Monica Barra University of South Carolina 15
Panelist Juliet Lu University of California - Berkeley 15
Discussant Brian Williams Dartmouth College 15
Discussant Sharad Chari University of California, Berkeley 15

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