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Capitalism on an Indigenous Frontier

UHM Department of Anthropology Colloquium Series
co-sponsored by CSEAS and the Department of Ethnic Studies
Crawford Hall, Room 115
Thursday, February 19, 2015  at 3:00 pm

MappingtheHighlandsDrawing on two decades of ethnographic research in Sulawesi, Indonesia, Tania Murray Li offers an intimate account of the emergence of capitalist relations among indigenous highlanders who privatized their common land to plant a global market crop, cacao. The book challenges complacent, modernization narratives promoted by development agencies that assume inefficient farmers who lose out in the shift to high-value export crops can find jobs elsewhere. Li’s attention to the historical, cultural, and ecological dimensions of this conjuncture demonstrates the power of the ethnographic method and its relevance to theory and practice today.

Additional Events

East-West Center Brown Bag Seminar: “After the Grab: Infrastructural Violence and the ‘Mafia System’ Inside a Plantation Zone”
Monday, February 23, 2015 12:00 – 1:00 PM
East-West Center, Burns Hall, Room 3015

Plantations are back. Colonial-style large scale corporate monoculture of industrial crops on concession land is again expanding in the global south.  The land dimensions of this renewed expansion were thrust into public debate in 2008-09, when there was a spike in transnational land-acquisitions dubbed a global “land-grab”. Legitimating narratives for corporate grabs hinge on the need for efficient production to supply food and fuel for expanding populations, and the promise that plantations bring development to remote regions, reduce poverty and create jobs. These narratives are powerful: time and again opposition to “land-grabs” is dismissed on these grounds.  Present losses and harms are discounted in view of the brighter future that is to come.  To move the debate forward, much more attention needs to be paid to what happens after the grab: what form of “development” is actually produced? Where are the jobs, and who gets them? What is a plantation?

Graduate Student Workshop
Monday, February 23, 2015 2:00 – 3:00 PM
East-West Center, Burns Hall, Room 3015

As part of her scheduled visit to the UH Mānoa campus in February, Prof. Li will hold a workshop for graduate students. The workshop will provide an opportunities for students to meet Prof. Li and discuss her work and their own research and writing as well as topics of shared interest.  Graduate students who plan to attend should:

  1. Read, in advance, Prof. Li’s recent book Land’s End: Capitalist Relations on an Indiegnous Frontier as well as her 2010 article in Current Anthropology, “Indigeneity, capitalism, and the management of dispossession.”.
  2. Attend one of Prof. Li’s public lectures/seminars at UHM (see above).
  3. As soon as possible, send an email to Jonathan Padwe (Anthropology Department),

Speaker Bio

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATania Murray Li is Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Toronto, where she holds the Canada Research Chair in the Political Economy and Culture of Asia. Her 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), The Will to Improve: Governmentality, Development, and the Practice of Politics (Duke University Press, 2007) and Transforming the Indonesian Uplands: Marginality, Power and Production (Routledge 1999), and many articles on land, development, resource struggles, community, class, and indigeneity with a particular focus on Indonesia.

[button url=”” size=”small” style=”default”] Faculty Profile [/button] [button url=”” size=”small” style=”default”] Book Website [/button]

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Image: Mapping the Highlands, Tania Murray Li