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GGIS Colloquium | Irrigating the Plantation State

Event Type
Seminar/Symposium
Sponsor
Department of Geography & GIS
Location
2049 Natural History Building
Date
Apr 26, 2024   3:00 pm  
Speaker
Dr. Charles Fogelman (PhD '17), LAS Global Studies
Cost
This talk is free and open to the public.
Registration
Zoom RSVP
Contact
Geography & GIS
E-Mail
geography@illinois.edu
Views
42
Originating Calendar
Geography and Geographic Information Science

Attention in development studies has returned to the plantation in recent years. The plantation has long been an important unit of production, exploitation, and analysis. In recent years, academic attention has begun to focus heavily on the relationships among environmental change, capitalism, and the plantation, both in its material form and as a metaphor. Some scholars have even proclaimed the contemporary era the “capitalocene” or “plantationocene” rather than the “anthropocene.” These proclamations highlight the harmful impacts of the transformation of “human-tended farms, pastures and forests into extractive and enclosed plantations” (Haraway 2015). 

However, limited attention has focused on the ways that plantationocene relationships of production and exploitation can be produced at scales larger than individual estates. Here I explore the ways that private industry has oriented farming, irrigation, and production in Lesotho toward export-oriented cash cropping, with harmful impacts on the country’s land, labor, and capital. My results, drawn from six months of fieldwork in Lesotho in 2023, indicate that the logics of capitalist production have effectively made post-independence Lesotho into what I term a “plantation state,” in which the country is continually reconfigured as a place of extraction, alienation, and exploitation, usually through the labor of Basotho people. 

Through the lens of one ongoing development project, led by the U.S. government and focusing on irrigation, I demonstrate that the development industry is using flows of water to make claims on the labor and surpluses of Lesotho and the Basotho people. In the final analysis, I argue that the development industry is reproducing Lesotho as it has been by apartheid states, the mining industry, and transnational capital: as a plantation state.

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