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CFP "Plantations and their Afterlives: Materialities, Durabilities, Struggles" Symposium, 1-3 April, 2020, ICS, University of Lisbon

Call for Papers

«Plantations and their Afterlives: Materialities, Durabilities, Struggles»

1-3 April 2020, Institute of Social Sciences, University of Lisbon

Convenors: Marta Macedo, Irene Peano, Colette Le Petitcorps

Organizer: The Colour of Labour: The Racialised Lives of Migrants ERC AdG 2015
- 695573, PI Cristiana Bastos

Keynote address: Deborah A. Thomas, Department of Anthropology, University of

Plantations have been crucial institutions for the expansion of imperial and
post-imperial projects. They function as racialised and gendered systems of
land appropriation and of labour recruitment, control, extraction and
reproduction, aiming at the intensive cultivation of cash crops for export.
Such operations have also had political, sovereign dimensions. Furthermore,
plantations have been central to the emergence and reproduction of the
capitalist world system, which in turn heavily transformed eco-systems and
landscapes, leading some scholars to coin the concept of
‘Plantationocene’. However, plantations are not homogeneous forms: in the
past as much as in the present, they have relied on a range of technologies,
relations and patterns of circulation, extraction, and design - they depend on
specific knowledges andpractices shaping both environments and labour
relations. We welcome papers that examine the materialities of plantations
across multiple times and places, their mutations, durabilities and spectral
survivals, taking into account the conflictual dimension of these processes.


How have the specific requirements of the crops being grown translated into
different disciplinary and spatial technologies for managing ‘nature’ and
people? How did plantation objects, ideas, and living beings circulate and
adapt? How have the different regimes of exploitation (slavery, indenture,
wage labour) coexisted, evolved and transitioned across specific historical
and geographical contexts? How can the various techno-scientific practices at
play in plantations illuminate the racialised, gendered and sexualized
dimension of capitalism? Furthermore, treating plantations as institutions
whose internal relations have pervaded whole societies, we aim to debate these
issues beyond the sole case of agricultural/agro-industrial production, by
including also the sites and types of labour and (re)production that have
developed in the evolution and restructuring of plantation economies, such as
those pertaining to tourism, heritage, domestic service, or construction work,
but also to carceral institutions.


Considering plantation techniques and materialities, and their mutations and
transpositions, also means to interrogate their afterlives, spectres and
remnants. Are plantations “back”? Were they ever gone? And where, exactly,
are they? The question concerns not only plantations’ geographical location,
but also the forms in which they might be seen to endure in the present.
Several scholars have addressed these issues, especially in relation to the
legacies, durabilities and afterlives of American slave plantations, in many
ways the locus classicus for the study of plantations. The dismantlement of
plantation units and households in old plantation societies has been shown to
lead to a repurposing of their techniques of management and extraction to new
domains. On the one hand, we aim to broaden the spatiotemporal scope of this
debate. At the same time, we encourage reflections on how these techniques
were transposed to contexts that cannot be easily identified as directly
related to plantation societies (the most classic example being the European
factory), and which explore the subjective and affective dimensions of
plantation hauntings.


The role of conflicts and struggles in spurring change, and their subjective
dimensions, is another key axis of interest. Transitions were not smoothly
driven by capitalist rationality, or well oiled by the wholesale reproduction
of the hierarchies created in the plantation. They were also the product of
renewed conflictual relations between the working and landowning classes,
which drew from the contradictions inherent in the process of (re)production
of plantations. We especially look for grounded methodological proposals and
empirical analyses that help grapple with the too often silenced forms of
social conflict, protest and “petit marronnage”, built on a socialisation
to resistance which may be specific to plantations and their afterlives.

We welcome papers from across disciplinary perspectives, tackling one or more
of these axes, as well as others. Abstracts (maximum 500 words) along with a
paragraph with biographical information, should be sent by email to:
by October 1, 2019.
Applicants will be notified of the results of the selection process by October
31, 2019.

Some travel funds will be available for those who do not have access to
institutional support. The publication of a special issue in a peer-reviewed
journal is planned after the symposium.

About the keynote speaker:

Deborah A. Thomas is the R. Jean Brownlee Professor of Anthropology in the
Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. She is also core
faculty in Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies. She is the author of
Political Life in the Wake of the Plantation: Entanglement, Witnessing, Repair
(forthcoming), Exceptional Violence: Embodied Citizenship in Transnational
Jamaica (2011), and Modern Blackness: Nationalism, Globalization, and The
Politics of Culture in Jamaica (2004). She is also co-director and co-

About the ERC project The Colour of Labour:

The project explores, through different tracks, different disciplinary
perspectives and a broad spectrum of empirical cases, the co-production of
labour and racialisations. Research within its scope has explored the
trajectories of labour into post-abolition plantations in the Caribbean and
Hawaii, into the migrant mill towns of New England, the multiple displacements
in and within the African West Coast, the entanglements of plantation work and
domestic work in Mauritius, and the processes of segregation and
differentiation of low-class migrants in contemporary Italy.
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