Trans-plantation afterlives of infrastructure in an Afro-Indigenous geography

Authors: Ulises Moreno-Tabarez*, London School of Economics, Matt Birkinshaw, Aga Khan University
Topics: Environmental Justice, Development, Ethnicity and Race
Keywords: Infrastructure, Plantation, Black Radical Tradition, Afro-Indigenous, Development, Mestizaje
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 32
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This presentation examines infrastructural development understood as the plantation afterlives
built on extractivist models of human life and ecologies. Specifically, we examine the
Trans-Isthmus Corridor (TIC) across the Tehuantepec Isthmus of southern Mexico. The TIC
seeks to compete with the Panama canal by linking the Gulf and Pacific coasts of Veracruz and
Oaxaca with rail, road, ports, refineries, pipelines, industrial parks and free trade zones. In doing
so, the TIC seeks to capitalise on the unique isthmus geography to capture a globally significant
infrastructural rent. Declared for Mexican investors only, the TIC illustrates the debt that Andres
Manuel López Obrador’s 'green neoliberalism' owes to (inter)national-corporate economic
interest and investment.

Our analysis first traces plantation logics in transition across time as afterlives of slavery and
colonialism (Cowan 2020). Contributing to new work on the geopolitics of
infrastructure mega-projects beyond the Global North, we seek to understand ‘the infrastructural
turn’ (Dodson 2019) in the Tehuantepec Isthmus context through the Black Radical Tradition
and survey the infrastructure corridor as a contradictory form of dispossession and capture. We
draw on ethnographic work to understand the new challenges that local communities face in
defending their lives and the environment against the militarised TIC. In doing so, we highlight
Afro-Indigenous modes of resistance to plantation logics (Wynter 1971). Overall, our
presentation seeks to think from the productive tension of Afro-Indigeneity as an unstable
category, to analyse the afterlives of plantation and displacement in the region and to complicate
narratives of sustainable development, plurality and mestizaje.

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