Sawyer Seminar

Interrogating the Plantationocene

Examining the past and present of plantations, their materialities, the economic, ecological, and political transformations they wrought, and their significance to the making of human bodies, capitalism, and land over the course of four centuries.

This seminar, beginning January 2019, will draw together anthropologists, artists, economists, environmental scientists, geographers, historians, lawyers, literary scholars, and sociologists, among others, to explore and deepen the concept of the Plantationocene. We will also consider other ways of naming our epoch (cene) that have recently been proposed, including Capitalocene (conceiving the Anthropocene as a result of ecological regimes inherent to capitalism, with its attendant demands for cheap labor, energy, food, and resources) and Chthulucene (a term that suggests the multispecies becomings that make up the storied histories of human and nonhuman lives). In doing so, we aim to come to terms with the plantation as a transformational moment in human and natural history on a global scale that is at the same time attentive to structures of power embedded in imperial and capitalist formations, the erasure of certain forms of life and relationships in such formations, and the enduring layers of history and legacies of plantation capitalism that persist, manifested in acts of racialized violence, growing land alienation, and accelerated species loss. At the same time, we aim to make visible past and present refugia of resistance, where different ways of being, sustained by different economies and forms of knowledge, have flourished.

Public Events - Spring 2019


The Anthropocene

 Wednesday Feb. 20, 2019, 7:30 PM
"Liquid Decolonial: Seas, Oceans, and Rivers in the Age of Racial Anthropocene"
Humanities without Boundaries Lecture
FRANÇOISE VERGÈS
Activist and Scholar
H.F. DeLuca Forum, Discovery Building, 330 N. Orchard St.
Free and open to the public.
More information

Thursday Feb. 21, 2019, 7:30 PM
A Roundtable on the Anthropocene, with Gabrielle Hecht, Dan Richter, and Françoise Vergès
H.F. DeLuca Forum, Discovery Building, 330 N. Orchard St.
Free and open to the public.

Friday Feb. 22, 2019, 9 AM - 11:30 AM
Anthropocene Seminar with Gabrielle Hecht, Dan Richter, and Françoise Vergès
175 Science Hall, 550 N. Park St.
Must sign up in advance.   


The Capitalocene

Wednesday March 27, 2019, 7:30 PM
"Chemical Violence and Decolonial Futures"
Humanities without Boundaries Lecture
MICHELLE MURPHY
Professor of History, University of Toronto
H.F. DeLuca Forum, Discovery Building, 330 N. Orchard St.
Free and open to the public.
More information

Thursday March 28, 2019, 7:30 PM
A Roundtable on the Capitalocene, with Shona Jackson, Jason Moore, and Michelle Murphy
H.F. DeLuca Forum, Discovery Building, 330 N. Orchard St.
Free and open to the public.

Friday, March 29, 2019, 9 AM - 11:30 AM
Capitalocene Seminar with Shona Jackson, Jason Moore, and Michelle Murphy
175 Science Hall, 550 N. Park St.
Must sign up in advance.


The Plantationocene

Thursday April 18, 2019, 7:30 PM
"An Evening of Conversation with Donna Haraway and Anna Tsing"
DONNA HARAWAY
Distinguished Professor Emerita in the History of Consciousness and Feminist Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz
ANNA TSING
Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Cruz
Varsity Hall, Union South, 1308 West Dayton St
Free and open to the public.
More information

Friday April 19, 2019, 9 AM - 11:30 AM
Plantationocene Seminar with Donna Haraway and Anna Tsing
175 Science Hall, 550 N. Park St.
Must sign up in advance.

About the John E. Sawyer Seminar Program

The Mellon Foundation's Sawyer Seminars were established in 1994 to provide support for comparative research on the historical and cultural sources of contemporary developments. The seminars, named in honor of the Foundation's long-serving third president, John E. Sawyer, have brought together faculty, foreign visitors, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students from a variety of fields mainly, but not exclusively, in the humanities and social sciences, for intensive study of subjects chosen by the participants. Foundation support aims to engage productive scholars in comparative inquiry that would (in ordinary university circumstances) be difficult to pursue, while at the same time avoiding the institutionalization of such work in new centers, departments, or programs. Sawyer Seminars are, in effect, temporary research centers. More information