Research and Publications

Plantation ecologies and economies | Food and industrial agriculture | Agrarian politics | Social movements | Civil society | Multispecies Ethnography | Decolonial science | Commodities | Bananas!

*Please feel free to contact me for PDF copies of any of my published works. I can be reached at: aepare [at] umich [dot] edu.

In progress

  • Paredes, Alyssa. (under review). “Plantation Liberalism: A Genealogy of Personhood, Property, and Activist Praxis between Philippine Mindanao and the Black Atlantic.”

Scholarship on the plantation has been broadly split into two ambits of concern. The first, emerging from the Black Atlantic tradition, has critiqued liberal humanist frameworks and the problematics of personhood in conjunction with histories of plantation slavery. The second, growing out of historical materialism, has concentrated on agrarian activism and the ecological dynamics of resource control. This essay offers the concept of plantation liberalism to bring these branches into political relation using an anti-chemical campaign on Philippine banana plantations as an ethnographic departure point. Plantation liberalism is the property-oriented vision of personhood introduced by agrarian colonialism that continues to define the contours of environmental activism today. To advance this notion, the essay outlines how American planters of the early 20th century drew on racial ideologies to project limited personhood onto Mindanawon natives and to impose private property as the path towards “benevolent assimilation.” It then demonstrates how those ideals became the narrative terrain on which activists continue to articulate environmental campaigns, and on which their claims for justice continue to be adjudicated. By illuminating the plantation’s hold on the political imagination, the essay calls for a language of environmental activism beyond the frame of “life, liberty, and property.”

Journal Articles

In recent history, the sudden visibility of food delivery services has alerted global publics to the labor asymmetries and the transformative potential of food transport in societies upended by change. Responding to these developments, this essay offers an ethnographic account of the gendered political economy of food distribution at the Green Coop Consumers Cooperative. A forerunner of the Japanese food movement, Green Coop and its delivery routes have become a platform for women workers to witness and respond to the societal effects of the country’s neoliberal restructuring. While similar organizations in other cultural contexts have struggled to move beyond exclusionary practices, women and mothers at this Fukuoka-based co-op foster social connection, accountability, and watchfulness in ways that surpass the capabilities of kin and state. Where scholarship has taken interest in the connective tissues between the spheres of production and consumption, this essay highlights and politicizes the node of distribution. Often cast as purely technical, the work of delivery is a prism through which to understand how demographic reforms bear on the food system, and how it has in turn become a site for citizens’ response.

The plantation has become a landscape of political impossibility. Its industrial modes of production and scientific management pose existential threats to local lifeways, stymie social justice movements, and unleash persistent ecological harms. This article argues that a renewed scientific sensibility offers a way to expand local strategies for transformative political praxis in the face of other political constraints. It introduces the notion of ‘science-in-vivo’, a method of experimentation that has emerged in the context of Philippine banana plantations ravaged by the ‘incurable’ fungal disease Fusarium Wilt Tropical Race Four, also known as Panama Disease. Literally ‘science within the living body’, the method combines secular and non-secular thought, and gathers human, nonhuman, and extrahuman forces in ways that break down some of the hegemonic antagonisms that define plantation life. It was inspired, originally, by a series of God-given dreams about microbes in the forests of southern Mindanao.

Along the ports of Japan, civilians have made a peculiar discovery: in a country where genetically modified (GM) crop cultivation is prohibited, wild canola weeds flourishing in the cracks of sidewalks are exhibiting the GM trait of herbicide resistance to Monsanto’s infamous glyphosate. Able to enter the archipelagic country via unregulated channels and to cross-pollinate with locally grown crops, the weeds threaten to make inroads into the food system in ways unbeknownst to human actors. Among the most vocal of groups responding to this urban ecological threat are Japanese women and mothers involved in consumer co-operative systems. This article documents the emergence of their activism to demonstrate how situated and transformative political action is key to the political ecological study of human-plant encounters. It does so by interrogating the notion of weedy activism as a way to see plants not only as the object of political action, but also as a conceptual heuristic for understanding the kinds of political subjects that emerge in interaction with local environments.

The karausu wooden clay crushers. © Photograph: Simone Armer. Source: Reproduced with permission.

This article provides a conceptual basis for ‘centering’ the relationship between artisanship and mechanization as one would in pottery making. Critical theory dichotomizes handwork from machine-work, emphasizing the division between non-alienated and alienated labor, authenticity and inauthenticity, and experiential resonance and capitalist fetishism. The author demonstrates the theoretical shortcomings and social repercussions of these dualisms through a study of Onta, a Japanese pottery village associated with the mingei folkcraft movement. Tied to ideals of cultural authenticity predicated on the refusal to mechanize, Onta’s reputation came into question during the ‘Problem of Mechanization’ debate, when craftspeople announced a request to introduce modern machinery into their craft making patterns. Reflecting on the ways artisanal and industrial technologies have been imagined, this article poses the question: Do certain mechanical systems exert too much force to enter into centered relationships with humans?

Book Sections

  • Paredes, Alyssa. forthcoming. “We Are Not Pests.” In The Promise of Multispecies Justice, edited by Sophie Chao, Karin Bolender, and Eben Kirksey. Durham: Duke University Press.
  • For a talk based on this chapter, see this link.


  • Paredes, Alyssa. 2020. “Plantation Peripheries: The Multiple Makings of Asia’s Banana Republic,” PhD diss., (Yale University).
  • Best Dissertation in the Social Sciences, International Convention of Asian Scholar 13

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