2021-2022 Faculty-Graduate Seminar: “Plantation Effects” ft. Professor Deborah Thomas and Annalee Davis

Apr 12, 2022, 4:30 pm6:00 pm
Event Description

Plantation Effects: Visual Ecologies of Race, Place and Labor

This seminar examines the multiple iterations of the plantation, and to draw from Katherine McKittrick, the kinds of futures it brings forth for us now. The plantation might be, to paraphrase Krista Thompson and Huey Copeland an “afrotrope” – a “recurrent visual form” that has played a key role in the formation of Black Diaspora identity and culture. We will consider its various representational formats, along with its various lives, and afterlives. As an ecological, material and economic intervention in the landscape, the plantations is a site of labor and knowledge production. It is both a form of enclosure and an extremely mobile form, a space where human and commodity flows converged, and an ecology formed through interspecies interaction. By considering these histories of the plantation – an ideological and spatial apparatus – we will think through its implications for practices of labor, experiences of the natural world, the organization of vision and, constructions of freedom as they have been formulated in African American Studies. Furthermore, across the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans, the plantation remains a site where alternative constructions of freedom, and otherworldly economies of knowledge, resilience and resistance formed. We will also consider how the transformations wrought by the plantation across the globe create possibilities to imagine the intimacies and particularities of time and space differently that can help us better understand the politics of race, representation and labor in our contemporary moment. Invited presenters for this seminar include scholars, writers and artists working in the fields, and intersecting geographies of Art History, History, Literary Studies, African American Studies, Creative Writing, Anthropology, Geography and the Environmental Humanities.

Please note that incoming and advanced graduate students are welcome to register.


About The Speaker


Professor Deborah Thomas

Deborah Thomas

Deborah Thomas is the R. Jean Brownlee Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania.  She is also core faculty in Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, holds a secondary appointment with the Graduate School of Education, and is a member of the graduate groups in English, Africana Studies, and the School of Social Policy and Practice.  Prior to her appointment at Penn, she spent two years as a Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Center for the Americas at Wesleyan University, and four years teaching in the Department of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University.  She is the author of Political Life in the Wake of the Plantation:  Entanglement, Witnessing, Repair (2019), Exceptional Violence:  Embodied Citizenship in Transnational Jamaica (2011), and Modern Blackness:  Nationalism, Globalization, and The Politics of Culture in Jamaica (2004), and is co-editor of Globalization and Race:  Transformations in the Cultural Production of Blackness (2006).  She is also co-director and co-producer of two films:  BAD FRIDAY:  RASTAFARI AFTER CORAL GARDENS (with John L. Jackson, Jr. and Junior “Gabu” Wedderburn), a documentary that chronicles the history of violence in Jamaica through the eyes of its most iconic community – Rastafari – and shows how people use their recollections of the Coral Gardens “incident” in 1963 to imagine new possibilities for the future; and FOUR DAYS IN MAY (with Junior “Gabu” Wedderburn and Deanne M. Bell), an experimental documentary that juxtaposes archives related to the “Tivoli Incursion” in May 2010, when Jamaican security forces entered West Kingston to arrest Christopher Coke, wanted for extradition to the United States, and killed at least 75 civilians.  Thomas is also the co-curator of a multi-media installation titled Bearing Witness:  Four Days in West Kingston, which opened at the Penn Museum in November 2017.  Thomas has published extensively in peer-reviewed journals across the disciplines. 

As someone who has been interested in the afterlives of imperialism, in the forms of community, subjectivity and expectation that are produced by violence, and in how these are expressed and mapped, Thomas is currently working on a couple projects that continue to probe these issues, though in very different ways.  The first concerns the “Death of the West,” its models of sovereignty, and its conventions of knowledge production.  She is mapping this epochal shift through two contemporary Caribbean phenomena.  The first has to do with the massive investment by the Chinese state and Chinese companies into infrastructures and consumer markets throughout the Caribbean.  She is interested in these processes as harbingers both of a displacement of earlier colonial and imperial Western hemispheric relations, and as a reconstruction of pre-modern modes of empire-building.  Thomas follows the multi-faceted attempts to construct a deep-water port and logistics hub in Jamaica at various sites, and is interested in the forms of activism these attempts have produced, as well as in the rumors that have circulated in their wake.  The second site through which she is investigating the death of the West is the dismantling of modern sovereign notions of law and policing toward the hegemony of a risk-oriented security strategy that is tied to agendas related to urban renewal.  Here, she is interested in the effects of Public Law 114-201, which was passed by Congress in 2016 as the result of activism from the Jamaican Diaspora Foundation, among others.  She is following the initiatives that emerge from this law, and the debates and discussions between diaspora communities and representatives of the security forces in Jamaica, in order to shed additional light onto questions of extraterritoriality and sovereignty and onto how these questions are expressed in national, transnational, and diasporic terms.  Thomas has also begun a new film project on the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church in Jamaica. 


Annalee Davis

Annalee Davis

Annalee Davis is a visual artist, cultural instigator, educator and writer, with a hybrid practice. She works at the intersection of biography and history, focussing on post-plantation economies by engaging with a particular landscape on Barbados.

Her studio, located on a working dairy farm, operated historically as a 17thC sugarcane plantation, offering a critical context for her practice by engaging with the residue of the plantation. She has been making and showing her work regionally and internationally since the early nineties.

In 2011, Annalee founded Fresh Milk, an arts platform and micro-residency programme. In 2012 she co-founded Caribbean Linked, an annual residency in Aruba, cohering emerging artists, writers and curators from the Caribbean and Latin America. In 2015, she co-founded Tilting Axis, an independent visual arts platform bridging the Caribbean through annual encounters.

From 2016-2018, she was Caribbean Arts Manager with the British Council, developing programming in Cuba, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, and part-time tutor at Barbados Community College (2005-2018). She received a BFA from the Maryland Institute, College of Art (1986) and an MFA from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey (1989).


For more information, please contact:


The Seminar is not open to the public and only for Princeton University faculty, students and staff.

Please RSVP to Shelby Sinclair, shelbys@princeton.edu

Event Type
Faculty-Graduate Seminar
Event Category
AAS Events


PLEASE NOTE: Photographs and recordings taken at Department of African American Studies events by anyone authorized by Princeton University may be used in publications, both electronic and print, at the discretion of the University and the Department of African American Studies.

Any individual, including visitors to campus, who requires accommodation should contact Dionne Worthy (dworthy@princeton.edu) at least one week in advance of the event.