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Accepted Paper:

Postplantation Race Politics in Argentina's Former Cotton Belt (Qom Territory)  

Author:

Tamar Blickstein (Marie Curie Fellow, Ca' Foscari)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, this paper considers how racialized cotton plantation regimes from the early twentieth century continue to structure ongoing settler modes of indigenous dispossession and disavowal in the Argentine Chaco (Qompi lands).

Paper long abstract:

Native people have not disappeared, yet the myth of the "vanished native" remains a key mechanism of settler colonial ideologies to this day. This paper considers how racialized cotton plantation regimes from the early twentieth century continue to structure ongoing settler modes of indigenous dispossession and disavowal in the current agribusiness frontiers of the Argentine Chaco (Qompi lands). Argentina was officially forged as a European immigrants' "white men's country" that had eliminated its indigenous population; yet the nation's tropical cash crop industries always relied heavily - and explicitly - on native and creole labor. Based on ethnographic research among settler and Qom populations, this paper seeks to unpack how settler disavowal of native land and labor persists in what I call the "postplantation present": a time when soy agribusiness and attendant mass deforestation have largely ravaged the smaller plantation economies that had previously institutionalized the area's race politics. I show how, despite having built their plantations on native land and labor, my settler informants still talk, act and feel like founders in an "empty land." Their doing so, I argue, both stems from and reproduces the racialized concepts of labor and land that the plantation system had engendered, albeit through newly intensified sentiments of loss, fear and colonial nostalgia in the face of increasingly scarce resources. This paper contributes to understandings of how colonial plantation legacies continue to "silence the past" (Trouillot) for some more than others in an era some have called the "plantationocene".

Panel P033
Bringing race-making and class struggles in plantations and export industries back to the research agenda