Plantationocene: a vegetal geography

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REVIP Seminar cycle

Guest speaker: Maan Barua, University Lecturer in Human Geography, University of Cambridge

Discussant: Krystel Wanneau, University of Vienna

Abstract: A Plantationocene is a threshold for understanding planetary change.  Rather than attributing environmental transformations to the universal agency of humankind, a Plantationocene grounds the alteration of landscape in histories of colonialism and race, and takes the plantation to be a pivotal engine for producing novel but fraught natures.  This paper develops a vegetal geography of a Plantationocene, engaging relations between plants and people as well as the role plants play as mediators of habitability in a landscape.  It argues that such geographies influence and are underscored by the exploitation of labour, violent enclosures of land and the quest to profit from both human and other-than-human life.  Vegetal geographies are tracked in three conceptual registers: the vegetal agency of plants put into circulation by plantations, vegetal economies centred on labour-power and the work plants do, as well as the vegetal politics of landscape change proceeding though an ecology of relations and the asymmetric exercise of power.  This reading of a Plantationocene and its vegetal geographies brings scholarship on planetary transformations into closer dialogue with colonial history and postcolonial political economy.  The argument is grounded in an ethnography of the Adivasi community, elephants and tea plantations in Assam, northeast India.

Maan Barua is a University Lecturer in Human Geography. His research focuses on the economies, ontologies and politics of the living and material world. It develops new conversations between critical political economy and posthumanism through three arenas of inquiry: urban ecologies, lively capital and biodiversity conservation.

Maan's current work primarily focuses on urban ecologies, leading a major ERC Horizon 2020 Starting Grant (2018-2023) on which he is the Principal Investigator. Prior to joining Cambridge, Maan was a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the School of Geography and Environment at the University of Oxford, where he also read for a DPhil and an MSc.

Organising Committee: Virginie Arantes (EASt), Emmanuel Charreau (CTP), Eléonore De Decker (REPI), Eric Fabri (CTP), Anna Nguyen (REPI), Marc-Antoine Sabaté (CTP), Lou Villafranca Izquierdo (REPI), Krystel Wanneau (University of Vienna), Christophe Wasinski (REPI)

March 18th 2022 from 12:30 till 2:00 pm

Université libre de Bruxelles 
IEE Kant Room
Avenue Franklin Roosevelt 39
1050 Bruxelles

The seminar will be held on a hybrid format. Login details will be communicated after mandatory registration via this link

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