The Plantation Complex

Emilia Terracciano, Art History and Cultural Practices, University of Manchester,

Anna Arabindan-Kesson, Art and Archaeology/African American Studies, Princeton University,

The plantation system did not end with the abolition of slavery in the New World. This panel seeks to foster novel debates centred on visual art production and focusing on the long afterlife of the plantation system following the abolition of slavery across the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. This also means redrawing attention to understudied phenomena including the global movement of indentured labour from the Asian continent.

Where the existing literature focuses on the antebellum US South and the enslaved Caribbean, we wish to explore the multiple instantiations of a system that is economic, scientific, environmental, cultural and social. From the 19th century until the present, we attend to the visual articulations of artists such as William Berryman, Donald Locke, Shiraz Bayjoo and Simryn Gill, for example, to suggest that the afterlife of the plantation is as much about trauma and collective memory as it is about the enduring and spectral patterns of labour exploitation and ecological devastation.

We propose three main research themes: how does the plantation figure in the visual, performative and aural work of artists? How do artists examine the slippery redefinitions and legacies of slavery? How to visually decolonise the corporate monocultures of the present and reflect upon the iterative past of the plantation?

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