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Extraterritoriality as spatial fix: Prisons and preserves in agricultural capitalism

Authors: Stian Rice*, University of Maryland - Baltimore County
Topics: Agricultural Geography, Historical Geography, Food Systems
Keywords: Agriculture, prison labor, settler colonialism, American Indians, racial capitalism
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2020
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual Track 8
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper examines the spatial history of U.S. agriculture through the evolution of two extraterritorial spaces: rural penitentiaries and American Indian “reservations.” These sites have long provided opportunities to spatially fix surplus labor and capital in the American food system; from the confinement of Indians during settler colonialism, through the regulation of labor surpluses during Reconstruction and Jim Crow, to the present-day expansion of convict leasing to backfill migrant labor shortages. This paper challenges traditional framings of extraterritoriality as “outside of” or “excluded from” traditional territory. Rather, idealized forms of U.S. territorial sovereignty depend upon the continuous reproduction of carceral and reservation spaces. These designations participate in specially mediated relationships to traditional sovereign space – relationships that respond to the fluid demands of capital and the shifting currents of racism and nativism in U.S. politics. This fluidity makes extraterritorial space both essential to agricultural capitalism and a potential site for social change.

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