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Palgrave Macmillan

Global Plantations in the Modern World

Sovereignties, Ecologies, Afterlives

  • Book
  • © 2023


  • Proposes an unexplored nexus between plantations and sovereignty
  • Presents case studies from the Caribbean, South America, North America, Africa, Asia and Europe
  • Addresses pressing global issues such as environmental degradation, food production and social inequality

Part of the book series: Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies (CIPCSS)

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About this book

Taking a multidisciplinary and global approach, this edited book examines the dynamic role of plantations as productive, socio-political and ecological forms throughout imperial and post-colonial worlds spanning multiple and broad temporalities. Showcasing an expansive range of case studies across different geographies, the collection sheds light on the heterogeneity of plantations and offers insights into the afterlives, spectres and remnants of systems that have been analysed as schemes of production, extraction and authority. Focusing on the expansion of plantation systems throughout various political-economic and ecological projects, and across the modern (and post-modern) period, allows the authors to move beyond analyses that often deal with individual empires through human-centered lenses. The contributors explore resistance to the mechanisms of extraction and control that plantations and their afterlives demanded, shedding light on their excesses, contradictions, failures and deviations. Offering a comprehensive treatment of global plantations, this book provides valuable reading for researchers with an interest in the socio-political and environmental effects of colonialism and imperialism in their various guises.

Chapters 1, 8 and 11 are available open access under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License via

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Table of contents (14 chapters)

  1. West Africa and Its Diasporas: Excavating Forgotten Pasts and Haunted Presents

  2. South and South-East Asia: Indigenous Labor, More-Than-Human Entanglements and the Afterlives of Multiple Crises

  3. Afterword


“The plantation is a distinctive global institution, vital to the making of the modern world. It is hugely creative in its wealth-making potential and massively destructive in what it does to the environment and to plantation workers. This highly stimulating and provocative set of essays help us redefine and rethink what the plantation means, offering great insights into slavery and emancipation.”

Trevor G. Burnard, Professor and Director of the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation, University of Hull, UK

A rare and relevant rethinking of plantations and their afterlives, this book powerfully intervenes in some of the most important debates of our time. The authors and editors brilliantly weave together ethnographic, archival and archaeological case studies that layer into productive critiques of colonialisms, racisms, environmental destructions, and im/mobilities. Through prisms of plantations and counterplantations and theunexpected human and more-than-human actors buttressing and resisting them, the book provides unanticipated insights into the Anthropocene, slavery, racial capitalism, industrial agriculture, migrant labour and – most importantly – possibilities for alternative futures.

Seth M. Holmes, Chancellor's Professor, UC Berkeley, USA

The common elements of plantations are the linear arrangement of monocrops and the deployment of labour on a massive scale. The other elements – racial, political, embodied, affective – are specific to their historical and geographic milieu. By placing diverse plantation worlds in conversation, the authors expose the worlds that made plantations, and the worlds plantations made and continue to make through their multivalent entanglements. The results are revelatory.

Tania Murray Li, University of Toronto, Canada

Editors and Affiliations

  • Institute of Social Sciences, University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal

    Colette Le Petitcorps, Irene Peano

  • Institute of Contemporary History, NOVA School of Social Sciences and Humanities, Lisbon, Portugal

    Marta Macedo

About the editors

Irene Peano is an Assistant Researcher in the Institute of Social Sciences at the University of Lisbon, Portugal. She researches the processes of migrant farm-labour and agribusiness organisation in contemporary Italy and their genealogies.

Marta Macedo is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Institute of Social Sciences at the University of Lisbon, Portugal. Her work focuses on São Tomé plantations, mixing approaches from the history of science and technology, environmental history and labour studies.

Colette Le Petitcorps holds a PhD in Sociology at the University of Poitiers (France). She is currently a postdoctoral researcher associated with the Centre d’études en sciences sociales sur les mondes africains, américains et asiatiques (Center for social studies on African, American and Asian worlds) in Paris. She works on gender, labour relations and the economy of the poor in the post-plantation, with the case of contemporary Mauritius.

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