Tropical edens: Colonialism, decolonization, and the tropics

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This paper concerns the representations of tropical islands by three contemporary novelists: Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison (Tar Baby, 1981), Taiwanese woman writer Su Wai-zheng (The Isle of Silence, 1994), and Sri Lanka-born Canadian poet and novelist Michael Ondaatje (Anil's Ghost, 2000). Temporally spanning the last twenty years of the last century, the works under study are geographically spread across the Caribbean, the Indian, and the Pacific Oceans. Being scattered in "tricontinental" oceans, tropical Edens, nevertheless, tell colonial stories that are geographically determined. By reading the three works in tandem, I aim to investigate the dialectics between islands and continents, and between Western colonialism and tropical Edens in the East. I contend that tropical islands like Ceylon, Dominique, and Taiwan are, like the unnamed island in Robinson Crusoe, geographical bases and metonymies of Western colonialism. It is my argument that the spread of Western colonialism is tied with tropical Edenic islands, and that my reading of geographical dialectics will hopefully shed light to the "glocal knowledge" of the "Edenic island discourse.".

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327-352
Number of pages26
JournalTamkang Review
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2005 Mar
Externally publishedYes


  • Anil's Ghost
  • Islands in literature
  • Robisonade
  • Tar Baby
  • The Isle of Silence
  • The Tropics
  • The postcolonial
  • Tropical Edens

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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