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Sucrerie

In this engraving of a sugar cane plantation, Sucrerie calls for its contemporaries to understand the relation between sugar production and its technologies and the human agents involved in its depiction of plantation slavery as unproblematically harmonious. Plants, sugarcane, and slave huts are numerically labeled and decoded for unfamiliar viewers, situating them within an island landscape that is both edenic and carefully controlled. A critical examination using the lens of food studies and the devasting toll sugar production had on an enslaved labor force, however, invites us to view the multiple, often conflicting, relations of agriculture, technology, and human labor involved in Caribbean sugar production. Sucrerie situates a natural landscape in conflict with the mechanized and forced labor environment featured in the center of the image. Multiple agents do the labor of sugar production: enslaved men and women carry sugarcane in their arms, work outside the boiling hut, and attend to the animals that drive a sugar-making mill. A white overseer stands in the foreground of the image, brandishing a stick and controlling the labor. Sucrerie is striking in its depiction of both the natural landscape and the laborers who, as many of the panelists emphasized, are typically made invisible in discussions of the Sugar Revolution.

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Sucrerie