Reviewed by: Anthropology and Environment Society
Primary Theme: Environment and Environmental Inequality
The colonial plantation permeates the industrial present. In this roundtable conversation, Julie Guthman, Anna Tsing, and Paulla Ebron — three of today’s key plantation thinkers — appraise the enduring legacy of the colonial plantation within our contemporary moment and its crises of livability. The following propositions and questions set the stage for their dialogue:
1. The plantation is a technique for disciplining labor, amplifying fertility, and concentrating wealth in the hands of elites. As an arm of capital, how has the colonial plantation mutated over time and readjusted its grip on the world?
2. The plantation is an assemblage of projects that transforms what it is to be human. What kinds of encounters, intimacies, long-distance connections, social mixing, and apartheids are essential to its operation? How do people resist and endure the plantation’s brutalities, disciplinary structures, and dehumanizing impulses? How do the categories and lived experiences of race, class, and gender emerge within its assemblage form?
3. The plantation is a site of mounting and inescapable ruination. How does the slow-motion violence of the plantation impinge on bodies, coalesce into landscapes, and ripple through geopolitics? What force do plantation aftermaths and ruins exert in the world?
4. The plantation is a grid of multispecies relations. What are the infrastructures, inputs, and cross-species coordinations that allow the plantation to function, but that also predispose it to crisis and leakage?
5. The plantation is a force that alters the course of Earth history. Has the colonial plantation propelled the capitalist world-system and biogeochemical earth-systems into dangerous new trajectories?
Within the history of anthropology, the plantation has been an important site of research and analysis (e.g. Mintz, Wolf, Hurston, Stoler, Carney). This roundtable seeks to revitalize plantation studies by analyzing imperial formations and more-than-human landscapes together. Doing so, the plantation becomes a boundary object for anthropologists working at the edges of race, colonialism, political economy, landscape, and multispecies relations