Call for Panelists: Towards a Global Geography of the Plantation

Call for Panelists: American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting
Washington, D.C.
April 3-7, 2019

Towards a Global Geography of the Plantation
Organizers: Sophie Sapp Moore, Levi Van Sant

“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.

Papers might address questions including, but not limited to, the following:

  • What are the overlapping and diverging elements of regional traditions of plantation scholarship and popular critique?
  • How have imperial and transnational networks of knowledge and commerce connected multiple plantation regions?
  • How have global flows of racialized capital, power, and knowledge shaped plantation geographies?
  • What does the plantationocene concept offer or elide towards thinking about relations between race, space, capital, and power?
  • What debts do current theorizations of the plantationocene owe to previous traditions of geographic thought addressing the plantation and its legacies?
  • How might the plantationocene concept look different if grounded in geographic thought emergent from the global plantation zone?
  • What are the limits of the plantationocene concept, and how are these limits informed by white supremacist, colonial, and imperial geographies of power?

Interested potential panelists should send abstracts of no more than 250 words to Sophie Moore ( and Levi Van Sant ( ) by 1 November 2018. Organizers will submit the session to AAG on or before November 8, 2018. By this time, all participants should be registered for the Annual Meeting, and have provided their PIN to session organizers.



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Casimir, J. (1981). La culture opprimée. Delmas, Haiti: Lakay.
Haraway, D. (2015). Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene, Chthulucene: Making Kin.Environmental Humanities, 6(2015), 159–165.
Hartman, S. (2016). The Belly of the World: A Note on Black Women’s Labors. Souls, 18(1), 166–173.
Li, T. M. (2017). After the land grab: Infrastructural violence and the “Mafia System” in Indonesia’s oil palm plantation zones. Geoforum.
McKittrick, K. (2011). On plantations, prisons, and a black sense of place. Social & Cultural Geography,12(8), 947–963.
McKittrick, K. (2013). Plantation futures. Small Axe, 17(3 42), 1–15.
McKittrick, K., & Woods, C. A. (Eds.). (2007). Black geographies and the politics of place. Brooklyn, NY: South End Press.
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Woods, C. A. (2017). Development arrested: The blues and plantation power in the Mississippi Delta. London: Verso.
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