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The Fordian Slip: From Plant to Plantation

  • Author(s): Sherman, Stephanie Elyse;
  • Advisor(s): Wardwell, Mariana;
  • Bratton, Benjamin
  • et al.

In 1927, American industrialist, innovator, and inventor Henry Ford founded Fordlandia--a plantation city in the Brazilian Amazon intended to cultivate a steady rubber supply for the Ford Motorcar empire. Only seven years later, Ford founded Belterra, a twin town, downstream, a second attempt to implement monocultural agriculture, suburban aesthetics, and paternalistic labor practices in the jungle. By 1945, both cities were abandoned, preventing Ford from completing the full vertical integration of his motorcar empire and leaving an unusual failure in Ford’s prolific modern legacy. This thesis explores the pathologies of platform production embedded in Ford’s persistence of his plantation experiment. It reads the double debacles of Fordlandia and Belterra as a slip in Ford’s capital project that reveals a repressed social desire in Ford’s production platform. This slip exposes the misattribution of circumstance and contingency, context and conditions in the process of platformation. The Fordian Slip is the mixing of motives and intent--the same mistake, repeated twice, in the same way. “The only real mistake,” says Ford, “is the one from which we learn nothing.”

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