Theories have histories and spatial locations. Certain foci of anthropological or historical reflection are, unsurprisingly, beholden to specific regions: spirit possession and postcolonialism gathered in relation to Africa, and India; revolution, to France, the U.S., Haiti, and Russia; territoriality and spatial semiotics to indigenous groups of the Americas or Australia; “ethnic nationalism,” to Germany and Eastern Europe; creolization and transculturation, to the Caribbean. These geo-theoretical productions inflect and act recursively on and in the lives of social actors who inherit them in those sites, and who live in their sediment.
Tania Li and R. Alan Covey in conversation about land and labor regimes in Indonesia and Peru. In each case, there are elaborate social worlds that must be neutralized, manipulated, or destroyed before they can produce workers. In 16th century Peru, people are turned into peasants by Spanish taxation and land tenure policies. In colonial and contemporary Southeast Asia, plantation labor becomes more or less free as local subsistence systems, global markets, and modes of state investment change.