CFP AAA/CASCA: Multispecies Labor in Emerging Agricultural Practices

Paolina Lu

Call for participation in a panel for AAA/CASCA 2023: Multispecies Labor in Emerging Agricultural Practices.

In recent years, ethnographers have looked to agricultural settings, investigating places like the monocrop field, the factory farm, and the plantation, as sites where multispecies agrarian biocapital emerges and takes form. In doing so, they have advanced a critical more-than-human labor studies by recognizing the work performed by nonhuman actors, and rethinking labor through the relations of humans and nonhumans. As Sarah Besky and Alex Blanchette (2019) write, “practices of labor in service of capitalism are expanding – in the sense of being performed by more diverse kinds of bodies and beings – at the exact moment that (human) work’s capacity to underpin and organize society seems to be waning.” At the same time, studying less industrialized sites of agricultural production, scholars like Anna Tsing, continue to remind us that ecologies of capitalism are always patchy, and offer other ways of thinking about how to understand nonhuman vitalities within capitalist regimes. With the term “salvage accumulation,” Tsing (2015) notes that “taking advantage of value produced without capitalist control,” is in fact “a feature of how capitalism works.”

Building from this scholarship, this session explores questions of multispecies labor in the context of emerging agricultural practices – new food and energy production systems created in response to climate change. Contributors to this panel will share empirical accounts of multispecies relations in these settings of agricultural production to consider: What characterizes the “work” performed by nonhuman vitalities? To what extent and how are nonhumans constituted (or not) as “workers”? How do nonhuman natures shape the labor carried out by humans? How can the framework of more-than-human labor help us attend to the patchiness of capitalism? How might the framework of more-than-human labor alter understanding of “racial capitalism”? Is “domestication” a useful analytic for understanding these emerging multispecies agrarian relations? And/or how might the context of the climate change help us rethink what “domestication” means?Alex Blanchette will be serving as chair, and Sarah Besky and Kregg Hetherington as discussants for this panel at the AAA Annual Meeting in Toronto. If interested, please send Paolina Lu ( a short (50-100 word) description of your proposed paper by March 20th.

Works Cited

Besky, Sarah and Alex Blanchette. 2019. “Introduction: The Fragility of Work,” In How Nature Works: Rethinking Labor on a Troubled Planet, edited by Sarah Besky and Alex Blanchette, 1-19. Albuquerque, NM: Univ. of New Mexico Press.

Tsing, Anna Lowenhaupt. 2015. The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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