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Sugarwork: The Gastropoetics of Afro-Asia After the Plantation

In: Asian Diasporic Visual Cultures and the Americas
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The politics and the poetics of sugar and its production have long connected African and Asian diasporas as the material legacy of the Caribbean plantation. This article considers the repurposing of sugar as art and the aesthetic of artists of Afro-Chinese descent, Andrea Chung and Mara Magdalena Campos-Pons. Part of a diasporic tradition of employing sugar as a medium that I call sugarwork, their artwork evokes the colonial entanglements of nutrition and labour on the plantation, centered in the belly. The womb makes, and the stomach unmakes. This practice, employing the materiality of foodstuffs, is part of a gastropoetics, wherein centering the sensorium opens alternative forms of knowledge production to the European colonial archive. As the descendants of enslaved Africans and indentured Chinese, Campos-Pons and Chung metabolize sugar in ways that grapple with the futurity of the plantation to form a new intertwined genealogy of black and Chinese womanhood.

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