Day 3

Extraction, Labour, Ecologies

A Provocation on the Plantation as Anti-Convivial Machine

Keynote Address by Andrés León Araya 

The actual and virtual socio-political ecologies of “camp life” on fruit orchards in the Okanagan
Kathleen Hutton
University of Saskatchewan

Bright spot ethnography: The analytical potential of things that work
Sarah Osterhoudt
Indiana University

Conviviality without environmentalism: An ethnography of illegal logging in Indonesian Borneo
Paul Hasan Thung
Brunel University London

Thanks to Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt, Alice Beban and Andrew Flachs for acting as Discussants for this panel.

Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt

Alice Beban

To respond to the Presentations, leave a reply in the comments section below.
If you would like to include an audio or visual reply, email this to before October 9.

This stream is chaired by Andrew Dickson

Comments 9

  1. Tēnā Koutou Colleagues,

    First I would like to thank the presenters and discussants for this panel, a really fascinating set of topics looking in different ways at labour and conviviality.

    One of the things that stuck in my mind was the position with regard to ‘the land’ that many of the workers discussed end up occupying. They are attracted to working the land (for a number of reasons) but are also, and importantly, abstracted from it, and are thus that form of labour that Deleuze following Marx would call ‘naked’. I am interested how this condition of capitalist accumulation works with conviviality, if it does, and what kind of convivial resistance might be forged though collectivities of abstracted labour?

    Just a first thought to get us started!

    Thanks again everyone.

    1. Hi Andrew, that is a great question. The point that I would like to make is exactly that it is not possible. In the case of the plantation, I believe that labor, and value, cannot be otherwise, it is necessarily abstracted and alienated labor that operates through the separation between production and reproduction. Thus, by thinking against the plantation, understood as an anti-convivial machine, we might be able to create a space from which to imagine labor in an expanded manner that sutures, or brings back together, production and reproduction.

      For me, people that work in the plantations are crucial for this move. Since in many cases they tend to not only navigate between different spaces that are understood as productive (plantation) or reproductive (communities), but are also part of their creation, their experience, in a way, already goes beyond these divides. How would conviviality look from a perspective such as theirs?

      1. Yes I completely agree! The conditions of abstracted capital and labour make it a structural impossibility to reform such a thing as a plantation – entirely new forms need to emerge..

  2. Wonderful and insightful presentations with brightspots of hope glaring through the ruins of the Anthropocene. I particularly like the hopeful research promoted, yet at the same time Andrew Flachs presents considerations worth pondering at the same time. So whilst living in the dialectical tensions between ‘a community’ and ‘the plantation’ we are challenge to think about the extra local influences of a globalised chain of production, extraction and inequalities. Here really empirical insights matter the most

  3. Hi Kat Hutton,

    Thanks for your thought-provoking presentation about the crucial role of the virtual in camp life in the Okanagan fruit industry, such an interesting topic. My curiosity was piqued by your brief mention of Lock & Scheper-Hughes’s medical-anthropological framework which considers the body on three analytical levels – on the level of the individual, the social, and the body politic. About this you say that “on every cultural level are patterns of thinking and acting that are encouraged, ignored, and/or punished, which create localized perceptions of illness and health”. I would love to hear your thoughts about where to locate the role and position of the virtual in this framework?

    All the best,

    1. Hello Paul,

      Thank you for this great question.

      That has been something I have wondered myself. I think the relationship between the virtual and the three bodies concept/structure is epitomized in the historical binary between body and mind. Neuroscientific findings now support many long held anthropological theories about how culture is fully integrated in the human – the mind/body problem has more or less been solved, in my opinion. We know that there is no such thing as this dichotomy. Just as much as the mind holds thoughts and functions in a virtual space that the ‘I’ can work through, our bodies hold cultural awareness and knowledge in an embodied way. The virtual therefore is marbled throughout the levels of the three bodies in much the same way as the cultural is integrated into psychology and biology. Virtuality can extend into the body insofar as bodies are, as well, things that we “think” with and through.
      So, perhaps, it is not so much that the position and role of the virtual must be located in the three bodies but rather, the three bodies exist as analytical tools to distinguish the body in the ‘a priori’ world of the virtual, language and culture, from which the body and embodiment has been historically left out.

  4. Hello day 3ers
    Thank you for your presentations, keynotes and discussion. This is an area – extraction – that I am not so familiar with. Each of the presentations gave me something to think about: Kathleen’s in term of the role of the virtual, Paul’s in terms of the eloquent insight of Catur in terms of the capitalist drivers in the village, and Sarah’s in terms of whether we focus on what is going wrong or going well in different places.
    * Virtual worlds can often be distorting lenses I think, and while we consider the role of technology in a convivial space, it’s encouraging me to go back to me research and think about how social media is an actant in the space of small scale growers producing with alternative practices and in alternative marketplaces.
    * Catur’s observations of capitalism reminds me that the perspectives of stakeholders in my research all bring different views on money/profit/income/value, and these perspectives often talk past each other. Value and exchange is primarily dictated by the capitalist framework that communities in Aotearoa New Zealand operate within, therefore it is hard for spaces to exist and flourish that are alternate to that viewpoint.
    * Bright spots is a new term for me – and I love it! I do have a tendency to often see the good rather than the bad, or more often what is missing or excluded, so while I think I have the bright spots in my work covered, I will have to look out for the shadows behind…

  5. Dear Professor Lahiri-Dutt,

    Upon first seeing your name cited as discussant for this panel, I was excited and a little nervous. Now I’m very grateful for your response – thank you so much for your generous engagement, encouragement and advice!

    You point out that, contrary to what my presentation’s title suggests, poor farmers engaging in small-scale extraction are not without environmentalism or morality. I fully accept this correction. The title was intended as a critical provocation towards conviviality-as-ideology, to point out that in certain circumstances there may be tension between conviviality and dominant discourses of environmentalism. But it is probably wrong to so easily give up the concept of “environmentalism” too easily and thereby fail to leverage its political clout? Your suggestion seems like a better argument: that what gets promoted by global institutions is not the only or ultimate form of ethical engagement with natural environments. And relatedly, that this case shows people creating alternative political arrangements for ensuring survival and justice, revealing possibilities beyond state extraction and Hobbesian lawlessness.

    You are also right to point out that there are not only the individual loggers and the capitalist loggers, and that we may gain important insight from examining the other positions in logging. In Buluh Merindu, I would highlight, as per your suggestion, the (migrant) labour hired by the capitalist loggers, and also the boat operators. The extensive vocabulary developed by agrarian political economists to describe agrarian transitions will certainly come in useful to think through these different positions and relations. The potential transition toward a situation where those with capital extract value from those selling labour, is however far from unambiguous or inevitable. For exampe, although boat operators are firmly embedded in capitalist enterprises, they retain a high level of freedom from the typical compulsions of capitalist relations – it is a very flexible job that young people may choose to engage in when they need money for specific ends, such as buying a motorcycle, and may just as easily leave behind later. Similarly, logging crews from Sambas put themselves into subordinate positions by working for local bosses, and yet retain a sense of their own superiority, and boast large landholdings back home – partially cultivated by hired labour while the loggers go on their logging expeditions. In both cases, this level of autonomy could perhaps be partially explained by the uniqueness of their skills (navigating dangerous rivers, pushing heavy bikes over slippery trails). I’ll leave it at this for now, from which it will be clear that a lot of digestion is still required to figure out how to interpret these positionalities and how to fit it all into the thesis.

    Thank you also for the other many useful suggestions for texts and ideas to engage with. I will certainly follow up on these. In fact, I’m hoping it will be okay if I contact you by e-mail next week to check if I recorded your suggestions correctly.

    All the best,

  6. Dear Sarah, your presentation was excellent and extremely informative. I thought that looking for a way to do bright spot ethnography is brilliant. I study the relationship between human and bees and have always struggled to contextualize the crisis research creeping into my multi-species and social ecological approaches. This definitely offers a practical way out of the crisis research and helps to meaningfully operationalize a new form of resiliency research. I really enjoyed how you are aiming to ‘highlight places not to change them but to learn from them’. After all, understanding ‘what works’ will be the key to true conviviality. Thank you for sharing your work and ideas with us.

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