Producing Illicit Agricultures & Natures

(Double Session: Paper Presentation with Panel Discussion to Follow) 


Plants and humans have developed intimate relationships throughout human history, and the nature of those relationships has frequently been fraught with conflicting values and meanings. As such, we seek to examine a wide breadth of topics in this session that explore (il)licit natures and agricultures, from sacred plants – like Mama Coca and peyote – to the global War on Drugs, from re-legalized hemp and taboo tobacco to agricultural trade embargoes and blockades--and all the political ecologies therein. We recognize that illicit plants maintain long histories as foodstuffs, medicines, cultural signifiers and commodities, and we ground our session in the lived realities of planting and harvesting crops deemed illicit. We are primarily interested in the experiences of growers themselves, though we welcome research on the broader dynamics entangling law officials, police, processors, distributers, consumers, public health, alternative medicine, and the military and prison industrial complexes and their roles in (re)producing illicit agricultures and natures. We welcome analyses that emphasize illicit crops (or the illegality of crops as such) analyzed from the perspective of agrarian viability, agrarian heritage, agrarian crisis, or agrarian change. We also welcome analyses of how the law itself is constructed, enforced, and manifested in farmer decisions and in agricultural fields themselves. Finally, we invite reflections on the methodological challenges of working at the fringes of licitness and how important potential research is foreclosed by the subject matter’s very illegality.


We are interested in illicit agricultures and natures in their varied manifestations across time and space, and, as such, we welcome paper ideas that address:


The production of agrarian (il)licitness

The varied trajectories of illegality and legalization in agriculture

Illicit crops as a livelihood strategy

licit market formation and less-than-legal markets

Redefining and challenging ‘illicit’

Racialization and the production of illicit crops

Gender and illicit agricultures

Coloniality of Drug Wars

Policing agriculture

Agriculture and the law

Indigeneity and the cosmological significance of plants deemed illicit

Decolonizing nature(s)

Alternative [ecological] ontologies that destabilize (il)licitness


In keeping with a recent Dimensions of Political Ecology tradition of community-scholar conversations on Kentucky agrarian issues, this scholarly paper session will be followed by a local practitioner panel. Kentucky hemp growers, medical marijuana advocates, and local activists against the War on Drugs’ racialized incarceration will gather to discuss the power dynamics and political ecologies at work in illicit agricultures. Join us.


If you wish to present a paper in the scholarly session, please submit your 250-word abstract to Garrett Graddy-Lovelace ( or Nicholas Padilla ( by November 25, 2016.   

Please reload