CFP: Plantation Modernity (11/1/2010; collection)

full name / name of organization: 
Amy Clukey and Jeremy Wells

Once regarded as a marginal space within European and American cultural imaginaries, the plantation has lately attracted much greater notice. Scholars have embraced forms of inquiry that reveal the institution's uncanny familiarity, its having long outlived the demises of slavery to become what Jessica Adams has recently termed a space that "haunt[s] the collective unconscious." No longer the emblem of a bygone social order, the plantation increasingly seems inseparable from and even productive of key concepts of modernity, including theories of property and personhood; ideas about labor and its scientific management; ideals of liberty and contests over the meanings of "freedom"; impulses toward colonial control and anti-colonial resistance; and, of course, understandings of race and problems of the color line.

This proposed collection, which has attracted the initial interest of a major university press, aims to bring together essays that explore the ways in which the plantation both instigates and complicates representations of the modern. How do writers and other producers of culture account for plantations from the early sixteenth century onward (which is to say, from the birth of the Atlantic slave trade and rise of the New World plantation complex until now, when centuries-old plantations are being restored and made accessible via the internet)? What challenges in particular do plantations present to prevailing sign systems at different moments throughout modern history and locations throughout the trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific worlds? Is it possible to plot historical points at which plantation geographies and economies seem to be forcing the invention of new, arguably "modern" forms of representation? And how are such moments then dealt with retrospectively, as writers from the late nineteenth century onward confront the plantation not as a relic of the past but more along the lines of how Antonio Benítez-Rojo has imagined it: «esa extraordinaria máquina . . . [que] se repite sin cesar»/"this extraordinary machine . . . [that] repeats itself continuously"?

These are among the questions we hope contributors collectively will address. Individual essays may of course be more focused and might consider such topics as these:

  • the ways in which the plantation generates, enables, contaminates, haunts, or disrupts discourses of modernity
  • the ways in which plantation "romance" may be seen as a form of engagement with (rather than flight from) the modern
  • the ways in which the plantations serves as a "matrix," "laboratory," or mode of "relation" (to build on Glissant) that erupts in unexpected places
  • the ways in which the plantation proves present, even (and perhaps especially) in its absence
  • the ways in which literary and cultural texts reflect changes in plantation production (for example, the shift from agrarian capitalism to agribusiness)
  • the connections between the plantation and other forms of colonialism
  • the connections between plantation cultures of various locales (the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, Ireland, Africa, Hawaii, etc.)
  • the plantation as a site of transcultural contact
  • the continuities and differences that can be found across the plantation complex

500-word proposals should be sent to Amy Clukey ( and Jeremy Wells ( by November 1, 2010. For those asked to contribute to the collection, completed essays will be due July 1, 2011.