Plantation Technologies

More-Than-Human Histories of Operationalisation in the Palm Oil Production Territories of Johor State, Malaysia


  • Hans Hortig ETH Zurich



In this article we investigate plantation agriculture as a technology aimed at extracting natural resources, utilising unpaid labour, and installing regulatory authority. Using the oil palm plantation territories of Johor State in Malaysia – a core zone of palm oil production, manufacturing and export – as a case study, we ask how more-than-human assemblages enabled the expansion and refinement of oil palm plantations in Malaysia and contributed to the material transformation of the territory. We also explore how plantations can be mobilised as an analytical device to study the urbanisation of territory through agro-industrial production. To explore those questions, we present three episodes of more-than-human involvement in assembling oil palm plantation territories in Johor. Through the conceptual frame of the operationalisation of territory, we bring into dialogue literature on the Plantationocene with critical urban studies and the history of urbanisation.

Author Biography

Hans Hortig, ETH Zurich

Hans Hortig is a landscape architect and researcher. He studied landscape architecture at the Technical University Berlin, the ETH Zurich and the School of Design, Mysore. Since 2013 he taught research and design studios at the Future Cities Laboratory in Singapore and the ETH Zurich, and guided graduation thesis at ETH Zurich and TU Berlin. He is a co-curator of the lecture series Sessions on Territory and contributed to several exhibitions such as the Rotterdam Biennale 2014, the Shenzhen Biennale for Architecture/Urbanism 2015, or Under the Radar, SAM Basel 2019. His scholarly work has been published in ArchitheseGAM Magazine and by ISEAS Publishers, and he is co-editing the forthcoming book Singapore Beyond the Border with Milica Topalovic. His current research focuses on Palm Oil Territories in Johor State, Malaysia.


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