The Persisting Plantation: Laborers in the Field & Literature

Presenter: 

The Costs of Certified Food: Just Pineapple Production in Costa Rica, Dr. Sang Lee, College of Natural Resources

Presenter2: 

Little Gold Piece: The Production of Fetish Value in Corregidora, Dr. Alia Pan, Center for Race & Gender

Date: 

Thu, Dec 10, 2009 - 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm

Location: 

691 Barrows Hall

THE PERSISTING PLANTATION: LABORERS IN THE FIELD & LITERATURE

The Costs of Certified Food: Just Pineapple Production in Costa Rica
Dr. Sang Lee, College of Natural Resources

The dramatic increase in the production and export of tropical and off season fruits produced in the global south has distanced consumers and producers. It has created consumer anxieties around food production practices related to hygiene, environment, and labor. In today’s global food market, these consumer concerns are assuaged through third party certification (TPC).  This presentation is an examination of how TPC, namely GlobalGAP, has influenced the function of institutions, producers, and often ignored farm workers in the industry, provides insight into shifting agricultural production in the global south vis-à-vis TPCs. Focusing on the case study of pineapple production in northern Costa Rica, we'll discuss how state institutions became replaced by private organizations, small producers were pushed out of pineapple production while others were forced to sharecrop, and there was a rise in contract farming, resulting in the further exploitation of migrant farm workers.

Little Gold Piece: The Production of Fetish Value in Corregidora
Dr. Alia Pan, Center for Race & Gender

In buying a slave, plantation owners purchased the slave’s potential to perform labor, or what Marx refers to as “labor-power.”  Whereas male slaves were sought primarily for the work they could perform in the fields, the fertile, female body offered owners three registers from which they could extract value: manual labor, reproductive labor, and sex labor (prostitution).  The novel Corregidora, by Gayl Jones published in 1975, presents us with four generations of women who, although spatially and temporally far removed from the plantation, continue to live with the horrific slave past.  Narrated by a blues singer named Ursa and set in Kentucky, the novel tells how Corregidora, a Brazilian plantation owner, removed Ursa’s great grandmother Dorita from the coffee fields so that he could rape and prostitute her.  Corregidora transforms Dorita from a body whose value is determined by the labor she performs into an object of desire whose value is no longer related to her labor power.  My reading demonstrates how the plantation confers value and privilege and I argue that Dorita’s passionate attachment to her elevated status of fetish causes her to participate in the maintenance of this fetish value.  Thus, Dorita binds her daughters to the plantation past by compelling them to stand as witnesses to slavery and reaffirm the value that she once held and refuses to relinquish.

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