CfP: Plantation Knowledge: An International Workshop Organized as Part of the Migrating Knowledge Project (Cologne, 15-17 June 2022)

Nicholas B. Miller's picture

Proposals for advanced papers are invited for a workshop pursuing a history of knowledge approach to the world history of plantations, to be held at the University of Cologne on 15-17 June 2022. Full funding is available for participants’ travel to Cologne. The workshop will feature the intimate discussion of pre-submitted papers and two keynote lectures by Wendy Wolford (Cornell) and Richard Allen (Framingham State). It is co-organized by Nicholas B. Miller (Flagler College / Universität zu Köln) and Ulrike Lindner (Universität zu Köln).

The fraught and complex legacies of the plantation—historically, environmentally, socially, politically, economically—currently occupy a center stage of interdisciplinary scholarship. Site to the brutal exploitation of human and natural resources, the plantation was a veritable laboratory of new techniques of agricultural production, labor control, and carceral governance. Taking up this latter observation, we will consider an under-explored question in a three-day workshop funded through the Marie Curie individual fellowship “Migrating Knowledge:” how did the plantation serve to instigate new forms of knowledge?

We adopt a longue-durée approach to the history of the plantation and its effects as a space for the production, making, and networking of knowledge. Across their various iterations, plantations were intertwined with the rise of global capitalism and industry as well as new forms of labor exploitation and political governance. Through the tireless pursuit of maximum yields, plantations were sites where practices, techniques, and technologies of intensive agricultural production were forged and contested. At core, we are interested in proposals that pursue the various forms of knowledge instigated by and developed at plantations, and grapple with the challenge of contextual diversity across time and space. Our discussion will revolve around three dimensions in particular: 

  1. knowledge economies, or the economic factors of knowledge generation at plantation sites;
  2. knowledge making, understanding plantations as sites where new forms of rule and discipline were crafted to manage and discipline subject laborers, including dimensions of racialization, migration, and labor organization;
  3. knowledge networking, including plantation-induced interlinkages between planter, administrative, scientific, consular, and laborer brokering networks. 

We invite paper proposals for case studies ranging throughout the early modern and modern periods and crossing the diverse islands and maritime worlds in which plantations were (and are) historically most pronounced. Building on scholarship on non-European forms of capitalism, we would particularly welcome work probing non-European attempts to contest plantation production as well as profit from plantation involvement, including as labor brokers, merchants, and rural intermediaries. Likewise, we welcome papers demonstrating how diverse forms of knowledge fed into contextually and historically specific iterations of plantations, including technical, botanical, labor, organizational, and managerial knowledge. We are also interested in proposals that investigate the political knowledge produced by and in response to the plantation within our broad chronological period. This includes tactics for racialized data collection by colonial states and planter organization; likewise, it encompasses forms of resistance that were circulated through labor and broker networks. We suggest that a focus on knowledge can contribute to a global history of the plantation that showcases dimensions through which agency was exerted by diverse actors, including those often-termed subaltern.

Thanks to generous funding from the European Commission, we are prepared to cover major travel expenses for all workshop participants, including flights and train tickets (not to exceed 1000€), group meals, and three nights’ accommodation in Cologne. The two goals of the workshop are to initiate a research network in the field of Plantation Knowledge and prepare papers for a special edition of a major journal in the field of labor history and the history of knowledge. Full papers of 4,000-6,000 words will be due one month prior to the workshop. During the workshop, each participant will serve as a formal discussant of two other papers. Feedback will also be provided by our two confirmed keynote speakers, Wendy Wolford (Cornell) and Richard Allen (Framingham State).

If interested, please submit a provisional title, 300-word abstract, and a CV to by 14 February 2022.