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A Conversation on the Plantationocene april 15–16, 2021, Cornell University

We invite you to join us for two days of virtual panels, bringing together a diverse group of scholars, activists, and practitioners to discuss the role that plantations and plantation agriculture have played in shaping the nature, structure, and dynamics of the modern era. Scholars and activists from a variety of disciplines of critical social theory and practice, including agrarian studies, political ecology, development studies, black geographies, and feminist theory, will discuss the Plantationocene and to what extent this conceptional framework may be useful—not just for analytical purposes, but also for activism and practice.

This virtual conference is available in Portuguese through simultaneous interpretation on the same Zoom channel. All sessions will be recorded.

Thursday, April 15

11 a.m.–4 p.m. ET

  • The Plantationocene? Thinking Across Regions, Histories, and Theories
  • Panel 1: Plantations and Control: Mechanisms and Meanings
  • Panel 2: Labor and the New Plantations

Friday, April 16

9 a.m.–5 p.m ET

  • Panel 3: Plantations and Smallholders: Relationships and Resistance
  • Panel 4: Uncertainty and the Multiplicity of Planetary Futures
  • Panel 5: Ecologies In/Of and After the Plantationocene
  • Panel 6: Life Otherwise: Social Reproduction Inside and Beyond the Plantation

Schedule

The Plantationocene? Thinking Across Regions, Histories, and Theories

Thursday, April 15, 11 a.m. ET

Wendy Wolford, Robert A. and Ruth E. Polson Professor of Global Development and Vice Provost for International Affairs, Cornell University, will introduce the ongoing debates over the Plantationocene and the potential utility of thinking with and against the plantation across disciplines, time periods, and regions. "The Plantationocene: A Lusotropical Contribution to the Theory," Annals of the American Association of Geographers (Wolford, 2021) serves as a frame for the conversation.

Panel 1: Plantations and Control: Mechanisms and Meanings

Thursday, April 15, 11:30 a.m. ET

Chair: Rachel Riedl, John S. Knight Professor and Director of the Einaudi Center for International Studies, Cornell

  • Youjin Chung, Assistant Professor, UC Berkeley, will draw on empirical work in Tanzania to discuss race and gender as entwined mechanisms of colonial domination that enabled the plantation; and the question of endurance and impermanence of the plantation.
  • Euclides Gonçalves, Researcher and Director, Kaleidoscopio, will discuss Mozambicans’ expectations around extractives and how these have contributed to the renewal of models of agricultural development discourse and practice viewed through a political and economic lens.
  • Fouad Makki, Associate Professor of Global Development, Cornell, rethinks the modern era through the prism of the Plantationocene—as both concept and historical formation—by reflecting on how our understanding of the constitutive relationship between New World slavery, capitalist modernity, and world ecology might be recast.
  • Tania Murray Li, Professor of Anthropology, University of Toronto, will discuss plantations as a form of corporate occupation that—rather like a military occupation—not only occupies space, but turns villagers and government officials into collaborators and thieves, obliged to wrestle with an alien force they must learn to live with and cannot remove.
  • Andrew Ofstehage, Postdoctoral Associate, Cornell, posits that the plantation is based on control, even though plantation owners have to adapt to the ecological needs of farming, the challenges of managing workers, and to government policies that are meant to regulate them.
  • Yunan Xu, Postdoctoral Researcher, International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam, will analyze the political economy of industrial tree plantations dominated by different actors in Southern China, using the practice of plantations as an angle to understand the recent and dramatic agrarian transformation involving the land-labor nexus.

Panel 2: Labor and the New Plantations

Thursday, April 15, 2 p.m. ET

Chair: Shannon Gleeson, Professor, Industrial and Labor Relations, Cornell

  • Yasmine Ahmed, Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow, American University in Cairo, will discuss the persistence of the sugarcane plantation in Upper Egypt, despite its seemingly inability to adapt to environmental challenges, political changes, and market forces that marginalize agricultural daily laborers.
  • Sarah Besky, Associate Professor, Industrial and Labor Relations, Cornell, will talk about tea plantations in India and what brings them together beyond scale and simplification, including discussion of the reproductive, generative underlayment of contemporary plantations that makes them distinct.
  • Mary Jo Dudley, Director, Cornell Farmworker Program, Cornell, will draw on ethnographic interviews of farmworkers from Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean to elucidate how the reorganization of agriculture in their home community influences decisions to migrate to the U.S. and how immigrant farmworkers envision opportunities for positive social and economic change at home and in the United States.
  • Deniz Pelek, Postdoctoral Researcher, MIGRADEMO Project, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, will focus on the case of seasonal agricultural migrant workers in Turkey to show how the dispossession of workers, the refugeeization and ethnicization of the agricultural labor force, and the transformation of agriculture are closely linked and interrelated.
  • Nancy Peluso, Professor of Society and Environment and Chair of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, UC Berkeley, will discuss race, gender, hybridity, and rural subjectivities in plantation formations in northwestern West Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo), a region known as "the Chinese Districts" in colonial conversations and described by Indonesian officials until 1998 as “plagued by ‘the Chinese Problem.’”
  • Caitlin Rosenthal, Associate Professor of History, UC Berkeley, will describe the ways enslaved labor was accounted for under American slavery. Slaveholders' calculations reveal the extent to which labor was commoditized in the plantation world, offering an opportunity to think about how the commoditization of labor figures into plantation economies.

Panel 3: Plantations and Smallholders: Relationships and Resistance

Friday, April 16, 9 a.m. ET

Chair: John Zinda, Assistant Professor, Global Development, Cornell

  • Jun Borras, Professor of Agrarian Studies, Institute of Social Studies and Jennifer Franco, Researcher, Transnational Institute, Amsterdam, will explore how plantations expose the issue of labor justice and through objective appraisal of workers' issues against the more dominant agrarian movements narratives and political projects.
  • Diya Dutta, Researcher, Oxfam America and Oxfam Great Britain, will consider the issue of land and worker rights in plantation contexts, synthesizing and distilling key findings from Oxfam America on the core challenges and efforts to address them with organizational programming.
  • Carla Gras, Researcher, University of Buenos Aires, will talk about her work in the Chaco region of Argentina, taking up questions around social differentiations, dispossession, and exclusion. Respecto del tema, en función de mi trabajo actual en un área de la región del chaco argentino, ela vá retomar cuestiones vinculadas a procesos de diferenciación social, desposesión y exclusión.
  • Shalmali Guttal, Executive Director, Focus on the Global South, Bangkok, will apply the Plantationocene concept to food systems, discussing how corporations are attempting to capture diverse food systems and make them uniform through technologies of production, storage, and distribution and through control over global governance of food systems.
  • João Mosca, Executive Director, Observatório Rural de Moçambique, will talk about the similarities between colonial rule and contemporary agricultural policies in Mozambique, with a particular focus on large-scale land acquisitions for flex crops and fuel, particularly coal.
  • Prabhu Pingali, Professor of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell,  will discuss the transition from plantation-based, export-oriented agricultural systems to small, farm-based aggregation models, considering whether farm-based cooperatives have been able to achieve economies of scale and reduce the transaction costs of market participation in high-value crop production.

Panel 4: Uncertainty and the Multiplicity of Planetary Futures

Friday, April 16, 11 a.m. ET

Chair: Eric Tagliacozzo, John Stambaugh Professor of History, Cornell

  • Kasia Paprocki, Assistant Professor of Geography and Environment, London School of Economics and Political Science, will discuss climate change adaptation in the Plantationocene and how the it shapes the "adaptation regime," with its focus on climate change adaptation as the cure for economic underdevelopment.
  • Andrew Curley, Assistant Professor of Geography, University of Arizona, presents the way geography has been grappling with a proliferation of "cenes" over the past decade: the Anthropocene, the Capitalocene, and the Plantationocene.
  • Sharad Chari, Associate Professor of Geography, UC Berkeley, will speak on an ignored act of subaltern political will from post-plantation Durban: an occupation of space that produced nothing less than the slave plot writ large over a city.
  • Philip McMichael, Professor of Global Development, Cornell, will discuss the concept of "dispossession by accumulation" and how it reformulates the Plantationocene as an intensifying ontological crisis, where land commodification accelerates time by space.
  • Judite Stronzake, Professor of Education, Universidade Federal da Grande Dourados, will consider the maintenance of the colonial productive structure in Latin America, with its dependence on export markets and the permanence of an export-oriented agriculture based in large, mono-crop plantations.
  • Michael Watts, Chancellor’s Professor of Geography Emeritus and Co-Director of Development Studies, UC Berkeley, will speak to the Plantationocene as a way of linking the contemporary agrarian question with new work on extended extraction, the planetary mine, and the operations of capital.

Panel 5: Ecologies In/Of and After the Plantationocene

Friday, April 16, 1 p.m. ET

Chair: Gregg Mitman, Vilas Research and William Coleman Professor of History of Science, Medical History, and Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin Madison

  • Rachel Bezner-Kerr, Professor of Global Development, Cornell, will draw on long-term research in Malawi and Tanzania to contrast narratives and practices—namely agroecology versus sustainable intensification—that are being deployed at international scales with a particularly strong focus in Africa.
  • Jarvis McInnis, Cordelia and William Laverack Family Assistant Professor of English, Duke University, will examine the emerging discourse on the Plantationocene in relation to Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Institute, which was transformed from an abandoned cotton plantation on depleted lands to one of the most prominent black educational institutions in the early 20th century.
  • Julie Guthman, Professor of Social Sciences, UC Santa Cruz, will discuss tech-inspired food futurism and its implicit promises of doing away with plantation logics. But certain developments in ag food tech are intensifying those logics: the "plantation in the bioreactor." Food futurism—like the end of plantations—opens up many questions about what economies and ecologies are left in their wake.
  • Jenny Goldstein, Assistant Professor of Global Development, Cornell, will present an interesting story about how Malaysian/Indonesian oil palm folks see their industry as the only way to be anti/post-colonial in Southeast Asia and push back against "Western imperialism" that tries to advance environmental conservation over ag industrialization.
  • Anna Tsing, Professor of Anthropology, UC Santa Cruz, will discuss the legacy of European colonial plantations as it can be seen woven into the technological standards of contemporary agribusiness—as well as what slips beyond plantation landscapes.
  • Sérgio Sauer, Professor, Center for Sustainable Development, University of Brasília, will discuss the historical and contemporary expansion of agrarian extractivism and its consequent socio-environmental conflicts in Brazil, particularly in the Cerrado biome.

Panel 6: Life Otherwise: Social Reproduction Inside and Beyond the Plantation

Friday, April 16, 3 p.m. ET

Chair: Juliet Lu, Postdoctoral Fellow, Atkinson Center for Sustainability, Cornell

  • Gerard Aching, Professor of Africana and Romance Studies, Cornell, will discuss the significance of partus sequitur ventrem—the stipulation that the child of an enslaved woman must assume her legal condition—for conjoining white/black racialization and black female sexuality in Plantation America.
  • Sophie Chao, Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Sydney, will discuss how plantation expansion in West Papua transforms human and vegetal children and child growth among Indigenous Marind communities. Attending to the contrapuntal relationship between introduced oil palms and native sago palms, she explores how monocrop capitalist production reconfigures the form and possibility of multispecies social reproduction for both people and plants.
  • Christopher Dunn, Elizabeth Newman Wilds Executive Director of Cornell Botanic Gardens (formerly Cornell Plantations), will talk about how "plantation" is anti-diversity, and why diversity is key to our survival. He will also cover migration as it relates to climate change, environmental changes, loss of biological diversity, and thus, erosion of cultural and language diversity.
  • Natacha Bruna, PhD Candidate, ISS, Erasmus University, will discuss findings from her research in Mozambique, particularly about forest plantations in the context of climate change and environmental crisis, and its implications for rural livelihoods strategies and social reproduction.
  • Judith Carney, Professor of Geography, UCLA, will discuss the significance of slave food plots and independent production for the agrobiodiverse food systems Afrodescendant peasant farmers maintained in former plantation areas.
  • Priscilla McCutcheon, Assistant Professor of Geography, University of Kentucky, will discuss the importance of centering Black faith, spirituality, and religion in how we conceptualize the Black ecologies of the plantation, and how spirituality continues to factor into how some Black farmers map their agrarian landscape.

Participants

Gerard Aching, Professor of Africana and Romance Studies, Cornell: Aching specializes in 19th- and 20th-century Caribbean literatures and intellectual histories, theories of modernism and modernity in Latin America, and 19th-century colonial literatures in the Caribbean, with a specific focus on relations between slavery and philosophy. His most recent book is Freedom from Liberation: Slavery, Sentiment, and Literature in Cuba (Indiana, 2015).

Yasmine Ahmed, Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow, The American University in Cairo: Ahmed is a social anthropologist who has conducted fieldwork in Egypt, Tunisia and New York. She is a postdoctoral teaching fellow at the Core Curriculum Office and the anthropology unit of AUC. She earned her PhD in social anthropology from the University of Cambridge, where she conducted an ethnography of the state, through a study of the everyday encounters between citizens and state bureaucracies in rural Egypt.

Sarah Besky, Associate Professor, Industrial Labor Relations, Cornell: Besky is an anthropologist and has conducted long-term research on tea plantations in India on the multiple forms of work that hold them together. Her books include The Darjeeling Distinction: Labor and Justice on Fair-Trade Tea Plantations in India, Tasting Qualities: The Past and Future of Tea, and the co-edited How Nature Works: Rethinking Labor on a Troubled Planet.

Rachel Bezner-Kerr, Professor of Global Development, Cornell: Kerr does research in Africa on social, health, environmental and political implications of different agricultural approaches. She is currently a coordinating lead author for the "food chapter" for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change upcoming report on climate change impacts, vulnerabilities and adaptation; she also co-authored a report on agroecology for the United Nations Committee for World Food Security.

Jun Borras, Professor of Agrarian Studies, Institute of Social Studies: Borras is the Hague, and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Peasant Studies. He is also an agrarian movement activist.

Natacha Bruna, PhD candidate, ISS, Erasmus University: Bruna’s research focuses on agrarian political economy, extractivism, and climate change politics. She is also affiliated with Observatório do Meio Rural, Mozambique, where she has worked as a researcher since 2012.

Judith Carney, Professor of Geography, UCLA: Carney has research interests in gender, food systems, agroecological change, and African contributions to New World environmental history. She is the author of Black Rice: The African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas and In the Shadow of Slavery: Africa’s Botanical Legacy in the Atlantic World. Her current research examines Afrodescendant smallholder food systems in Brazil where agroecological practices are capable of offering an agrobiodiverse planetary future in stark contrast to soy and oil palm monocultures.

Sophie Chao, Postdoctoral Research Associate, School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry, University of Sydney: An anthropologist and multispecies ethnographer by training, Chao’s research explores the intersections of Indigeneity, ecology, and capitalism in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. Her first book, In the Shadow of the Palms: More-Than-Human Becomings in West Papua, is forthcoming with Duke University Press.

Sharad Chari, Associate Professor of Geography, UC Berkeley: Chari is affiliated to the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WiSER) in Johannesburg. He is finishing a book on South Africa titled Apartheid Remains and has begun work on the concept of an "ocean economy" and its submergent histories in the Southern African Indian Ocean region.

Youjin Chung, Assistant Professor, UC Berkeley: Chung’s research interests include the political economy of development, feminist political ecology, critical agrarian and food studies, science and technology studies, and African studies.

Andrew Curley, Assistant Professor of Geography, University of Arizona: Curley's research focuses of the everyday incorporation of Indigenous nations into colonial economies. Building on ethnographic research, his publications speak to how Indigenous communities understand coal, energy, land, water, infrastructure, and development in an era of energy transition and climate change.

Mary Jo Dudley, Director, Cornell Farmworker Program, Cornell: Dudley’s work focuses on improving the living and working conditions of farmworkers and their families. She conducts ethnographic research with farmworkers to determine priority areas for support. Her research examines the contributions of farmworkers to the economic and social fabric of NYS and their visions for the future.

Diya Dutta, Researcher, Oxfam America and Oxfam Great Britain: Dutta holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from Jawaharlal Nehru University and an M.Phil in development studies from Oxford University. She was head of research at Oxfam India for four years and is now working on care economy issues in the U.S. and gender-based violence issues in agricultural supply chains. In the UK, she is the coeditor and project manager of the Gender and Development journal. Dutta’s research focuses on women's economic empowerment, unpaid care work, gender-based violence, women's political leadership, south-south cooperation, inter-generational poverty transfer, elite capture and many others.

Christopher Dunn, Elizabeth Newman Wilds Executive Director of Cornell Botanic Gardens: Dunn is a botanist and conservation ecologist who has considerable experience studying the relationships between peoples and place, and human impacts on the landscape. Recently, he has focused his attention on the intersection of biological and cultural and language diversity and how they are impacted by climate change.

Jennifer Franco, Researcher, Transnational Institute, Amsterdam: Franco's continuing action research and political work are focused on the politics of natural resources (land, water, seas and forests) and agrarian movement building and mobilization. She is also an agrarian movement activist.

Shannon Gleeson, Professor of Labor Relations, Law, and History, Cornell: Her latest books include Accountability across Borders: Migrant Rights in North America (University of Texas Press, 2019, with Xóchitl Bada) and Precarious Claims: The Promise and Failure of Workplace Protections in the United States (University of California Press, 2016).

Jenny Goldstein, Assistant Professor of Global Development, Cornell: A geographer by training, Goldstein's research focuses on the politics of novel ecologies and land rehabilitation in Indonesia.

Euclides Gonçalves, Researcher and Director, Kaleidoscopio: Gonçalves’ research focuses on governance, bureaucratic processes and political rituals; his current research examines public encounters with bureaucratic power through the analysis of policy and identity documents. His published materials include A Companion to the Anthropology of Africa, Orientações superiores: Time and Bureaucratic Authority in Mozambique, and Agricultural corridors as 'demonstration fields': infrastructure, fairs and associations along the Beira and Nacala corridors of Mozambique.

Carla Gras, Researcher, University of Buenos Aires: Trained as a sociologist, Gras is Principal investigator of the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET) and the Rural Studies and Globalization Program in the Interdisciplinary School of Advanced Social Studies of the National University of San Martín, Argentina. Her areas of study include: agrarian structure, rural development, dynamics of agrarian change.

Investigadora principal del Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET) y Programa de Estudios Rurales y Globalización- Escuela Interdisciplinaria de Altos Estudios Sociales de la Universidad Nacional de San Martín, Argentina. Área de estudios: estructura agraria, desarrollo rural, dinámicas de cambio agrario.

Julie Guthman, Professor of Social Sciences, UC Santa Cruz: Guthman conducts research on the conditions of possibility for food system transformation in the U.S. Her publications include three multi-award winning monographs, the latest of which, Wilted: Pathogens, Chemicals, and the Fragile Future of the Strawberry Industry, was the recipient of the 2020 AAG Meridian Award for outstanding scholarly work in geography.

Shalmali Guttal, Executive Director, Focus on the Global South, Bangkok: Guttal has been working on trade, investment, debt, land and natural resource governance, and the commons for over 25 years, with emphasis on community rights to resources, women’s rights, and democratization of governance. Her work includes research, writing, campaigning and popular education on issues related to economic, social and ecological justice. She works with several grassroots movements on the creation and governance of natural, social and knowledge commons.

Gregg Mitman, Vilas Research and William Coleman Professor of History, Medical History, and Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison: His latest book, Empire of Rubber: Firestone’s Scramble for Land and Power in Liberia, will be published by The New Press in October 2021.

Tania Murray Li, Professor, Anthropology, University of Toronto: Li’s publications include Land's End: Capitalist Relations on an Indigenous Frontier (Duke University Press, 2014), Powers of Exclusion: Land Dilemmas in Southeast Asia (with Derek Hall and Philip Hirsch, NUS Press, 2011), and The Will to Improve: Governmentality, Development, and the Practice of Politics (Duke University Press, 2007). For the past 10 years, Li has been conducting ethnographic research and writing about Indonesia’s massively expanding oil palm plantations. She has co-authored a book called Plantation Life: Corporate Occupation in Indonesia’s Oil Palm Zone with Pujo Semedi (Gadjah Mada University).

Juliet Lu, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Atkinson Center for Sustainability, Cornell: Lu is a political ecologist who studies the implications of China’s investments in land and other resources across the world.

Fouad Makki, Associate Professor of Global Development, Cornell: Makki teaches and writes about international development, social theory, political economy and the historical sociology of modernity. Trained in the comparative study of society and history, he works across the disciplinary boundaries of the social sciences. As an undergraduate at Cornell, he was particularly interested in social and political thought and subsequently received a PhD in historical sociology from Binghamton University.

Priscilla McCutcheon, Assistant Professor of Geography, University of Kentucky: Much of McCutcheon’s work is at the intersection of Black geographies, food/agriculture, spirituality, and space. McCutcheon is increasingly interested in Black spiritual and religious geographies and the ways in which the "spirit" is used to conceptualize space and place, particularly in the U.S. South. She has published work in Social and Cultural Geography, Antipode, Gender Place and Culture, and Black Perspectives among other places.

Jarvis McInnis, Cordelia and William Laverack Family Assistant Professor of English, Duke University: McInnis is an interdisciplinary scholar of African American and African Diaspora literature and culture. He is currently completing his first book manuscript, tentatively titled, Afterlives of the Plantation: Tuskegee, Black Agricultural Modernity, and the Global Black South, which aims to reorient the geographic contours of black transnationalism and diaspora by interrogating the hemispheric linkages between southern African American and Caribbean writers, intellectuals, and cultures in the early twentieth century.

Philip McMichael Professor of Global Development, Cornell: McMichael is author of Development and Social Change: A Global Perspective (Sage, 2017), Food Regimes and Agrarian Questions (Fernwood, 2013), and the award-winning Settlers and the Agrarian Question (Cambridge, 1984), he has also co-edited Finance or Food? The role of cultures, values and ethics in land use negotiations (U Toronto Press, 2020), with Hilde Bjørkhaug, and Bruce Muirhead. He works with the Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples’ Mechanism in the UN Committee on World Food Security.

Sharlene Mollett, Associate Professor of Geography, University of Toronto: Mollett is a cultural geographer and feminist political ecologist in the Centre for Critical Development Studies and the Department of Human Geography at the University of Toronto Scarborough. She positions her work at the entanglements of postcolonial feminist political ecology and critical racial studies in the Americas.

João Mosca, Executive Director, Observatório do Meio Rural: Mosca is executive director at the only rural development thinktank in Mozambique, the well-known Observatório do Meio Rural based in Maputo. He is also a researcher at the Universidade Politécnica de Maputo and coordinator of research in agrarian politics. His areas of interest include agrarian economics, rural development, and economic theory.

Andrew Ofstehage, Postdoctoral Associate, Cornell: Ofstehage’s research among transnational soybean farmers in Brazil incorporates training in agronomy and anthropology and asks how transnational farmers engage with soils and landscapes in Brazil; become managers of workers and investors; and create and recreate agrarian communities out of place. He is now conducting new research on the bio-cultural life of soy consumption in the United States, planning new work on the socio-material life of soil, and continuing ethnographic research with transnational soy farmers in Brazil.

Kasia Paprocki, Assistant Professor of Geography and Environment, London School of Economics and Political Science: Paprocki’s research addresses issues within and between the political economy of development, agrarian studies, and the political ecology of climate change.

Deniz Pelek, Postdoctoral Researcher, MIGRADEMO Project, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona: Pelek is a postdoctoral researcher in the MIGRADEMO Project funded by the European Research Council and hosted by the Department of Political Science at the Universitat Autonòma de Barcelona. Her research interests include agrarian studies, migration and refugee studies. Her publications have appeared in the Journal of Peasant Studies, Journal of Refugee Studies, Migrations Société, and Toplum ve Bilim.

Nancy Peluso, Professor of Society and Environment and Chair, Center for Southeast Asian Studies, UC Berkeley: Peluso’s work explores various dimensions of resource access, use, and control, while comparing and contrasting local, national, and international influences on management structures and processes. She has worked in Indonesia for multiple decades and grounds her analysis of contemporary resource management policy and practice in local and regional histories.

Prabhu Pingali, Professor of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell: Pingali is the founding director of the Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition. He has over three decades of experience working with some of the leading international agricultural development organizations as a research economist, development practitioner, and senior manager.

Rachel Beatty Riedl, John S. Knight Professor of International Studies and Director of the Einaudi Center, Cornell: Riedl’s research interests include institutional development in new democracies, local governance and decentralization policy, authoritarian regime legacies, and religion and politics, with a regional focus in Africa. Riedl is cohost of the podcast Ufahamu Africa, and her most recent book is From Pews to Politics, Religious Sermons and Political Participation in Africa (Cambridge University Press, 2019).

Caitlin Rosenthal, Associate Professor of History, UC Berkley: Rosenthal’s research and teaching focus on the evolution of data practices, information technologies, and labor management. Her first book, Accounting for Slavery (2018), explores the business history of plantation slavery in the U.S. South, Jamaica, and Barbados.

Sergio Sauer, Professor, Center for Sustainable Development, University of Brasília: Sauer holds a research scholarship from the Brazilian CNPq and is a fellow of the human rights NGO Terra de Direitos. His main research themes are land (land grabbing) and environment issues, public policies for the countryside and agrarian social movements, and agribusiness.

Sara Smith, Associate Professor of Geography, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill: Smith is a feminist political geographer studying intimate geopolitics and how the politics of time and the future are used to claim territory. She has studied this through work on love, intermarriage, and higher education in Ladakh, in the Indian Himalaya, but also in relation to the politics of the Anthropocene, and more broadly in relation to white supremacy and related forms of majoritarian nationalism in the U.S. and global context.

Judite Stronzake, MST activist, Teacher at the Florestan Fernandes’ National School in Brazil, and Professor of Education, Universidade Federal da Grande Dourados: Daughter of landless rural workers, Stronzake joined the Movement of Landless Rural Workers with her family in 1984. Since then, she has worked in the area of agroecology and training. She develops research in the area of agricultural restructuring and agribusiness in Brazil and Latin America and the impacts on the lives of rural, indigenous and urban workers. Stronzake has a master’s degree from the University of São Paulo and is a PhD student in comparative studies of the Americas at the University of Brasília.

Filha de trabalhadores rurais Sem Terra, com a família passa integrar o Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra em 1984, de lá para cá, trabalho na área de agroecologia e formação, desenvolvo pesquisas na área da reestruturação produtiva e agronegócio no Brasil e América Latina e os impactos na vida dos trabalhadores rurais, indígenas e trabalhadores urbanos. Mestre pela Universidade de São Paulo/USP e doutorando em Estudos Comparados sobre as Américas na Universidade de Brasília/UnB.

Eric Tagliacozzo, John Stambaugh Professor of History, Cornell: Tagliacozzo has written books on the history of smuggling in colonial Southeast Asia and the history of the Hajj (or pilgrimage to Mecca) from Southeast Asia to the Middle East. He is the editor or co-editor of 10 other books. Tagliacozzo is the director of the Comparative Muslim Societies Program, directs Cornell's Modern Indonesia Project as well, and he is one of the two editors of the journal Indonesia.

Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, Professor of Anthropology, UC Santa Cruz: Tsing is the author of In the Realm of the Diamond Queen (1993), Friction (2005) and The Mushroom at the End of the World (2015).

Michael Watts, Chancellor’s Professor of Geography Emeritus and Codirector of Development Studies, UC Berkeley: Watts has served as the director of the Institute of International Studies at the University of California at Berkeley from 1994–2004 and was director of the Social Science MATRIX 2019–2020. Educated at University College London and the University of Michigan, he has held visiting appointments at the Smithsonian Institution, Bergen, Bologna, and London.

Wendy Wolford, Robert A. and Ruth E. Polson Professor of Global Development, Cornell: Wolford’s research includes work on the political economies of development, agrarian societies, political ecology, land dispossession and distribution, social mobilization, and critical ethnography, with a regional focus in Brazil and Mozambique. She is currently finishing a book on the politics of agricultural research and development in Mozambique.

Yunan Xu, Postdoctoral Researcher, International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University, Rotterdam: Xu currently works for a European Research Council Advanced Grant awarded project "Commodity & Land Rushes and Regimes: Reshaping Five Spheres of Global Social Life (RRUSHES-5)." She previously worked as a postdoctoral research fellow at Singapore Management University. She obtained her PhD degree in development studies at ISS in the Hague.

John Aloysius Zinda, Assistant Professor of Global Development, Cornell: Much of Zinda's work examines how people and landscapes in rural China grapple with developmental and environmental interventions around national parks, afforestation, and cash crops. He also researches how people in flood-affected cities in the U.S. deal with changing risks.