CFP: Planetary Urbanization and the War Against the Peasantry

 

 For the conference:

‘Women, Nature, & Colonies’: Power, Reproduction, and Unpaid Work/Energy in the Capitalist World-Ecology

Third annual conference of the World-Ecology Research Network

21-22 July 2017, Binghamton University, Binghamton, NY

This session explores the relations between two of the twenty-first century’s most relevant transformations: planetary urbanization and the systematic dissolution of world peasantries. Conceptualized as a dialectic of implosion/explosion whereby demographic agglomeration in cities (implosion) evolves in tandem with the aggressive projection of infrastructures and built environments across the non-urban realm (explosion), the notion of planetary urbanization has been gaining increasing attention in the field of urban studies (see Brenner 2014). The full significance of this phenomenon, however, cannot be fully grasped without understanding an even larger world-historical transformation: the systematic assault on agrarian modes of existence that accelerated sharply after 1945, and again since the 1970s, reaching its pinnacle in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. This process, aptly termed “global depeasantization” by Farshad Araghi (1995, 2009), has been traversed by variegated forms of violence and brutal dispossession. Bulldozers that raze whole villages to the ground in geographies of resource extraction; death squads that exterminate peasant communities in order to make way for speculative investment; predatory forms of lending that trigger suicide epidemics among indebted farmers; and state crackdowns delivered in the form of rampant militarization, are but a few of the ways in which ‘the explosion of the urban’ extends the discipline of capital across the countryside.

Sprawling growth of slums in the outskirts of cities, a swelling world proletariat, and a deeply racialized surplus population whose size and geographical breadth are unprecedented in human history, are the most genuine products begotten by this unrelenting ‘explosion of spaces’. Far from pertaining to the study of ‘the city’ or ‘the country’, the dissolution of world peasantries demands a collaborative effort that is able to harness the strengths –and transcend the weaknesses- of urban and agrarian studies. This panel session invites papers that spark such a dialogue, and that consider global depeasantization and planetary urbanization as two moments in the same dialectic of sociospatial change. Approaches that explore either theoretical, methodological, empirical, or aesthetic dimensions of this conversation are welcome. Because the violent erasure of rural ways of living has been bypassed by the city-centric gaze of the media and of a considerable part of scholarly debate, an important objective of this panel will be to render visible the worlds of human anguish and social despair that underpin the urbanization of the countryside under twenty-first century capitalism.

 

Themes for papers might include, but are not limited to:

 

  • Financialization of everyday life, indebtedness, and the violence of money;
  • Militarization, policing, criminalization of protest, and other forms of state repression;
  • Land-grabs and evictions resulting from the financialization of land and/or speculative investment;
  • Technological change, mechanization of agriculture/mining, and the real subsumption of labor to capital;
  • Race, gender, and the commodification of labor-power;
  • Surplus populations, forced displacement, and slum urbanization;
  • Depopulation of the countryside;
  • Public health problems resulting from air, water and noise pollution in spaces of resource extraction;
  • Shifting lifestyles and commodification of social reproduction in the rapidly urbanizing countryside;
  • (Re)peasantization, agroecology, new forms of agrarian citizenship and social resistance;
  • Migration, floating populations, and seasonal work;
  • Cartographic visualizations, photography, as well as other visual and aesthetic representations of depeasantization.

Submit expressions of interest or paper abstracts by 15 February, 2017, to:

Martín Arboleda, marboleda@gsd.harvard.edu, and to Michael Lukas, mlukas@uchilefau.cl.

References:

Araghi, Farshad. 1995. Global Depeasantization, 1945-1990. The Sociological Quarterly 36.2, 337-368.

Araghi, Farshad. 2009. The Invisible Hand and the Visible Foot: Peasants, Dispossession and Globalization. In Kay, Cristóbal; Akram-Lodhi; A. Haroon (eds). Peasants and Globalization: Political Economy, Rural Transformation and the Agrarian Question. Routledge, New York.

Brenner, Neil (ed). 2014. Implosions/Explosions: Towards a Study of Planetary Urbanization. Jovis, Berlin.

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