Ariel's Ecology: Plantations, Personhood, and Colonialism in the American Tropics by Monique AllewaertAriel's Ecology: Plantations, Personhood, and Colonialism in the American Tropics by Monique Allewaert

Ariel's Ecology: Plantations, Personhood, and Colonialism in the American Tropics

byMonique Allewaert

Paperback | July 11, 2013

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What happens if we abandon the assumption that a person is a discrete, world-making agent who acts on and creates place? This, Monique Allewaert contends, is precisely what occurred on eighteenth-century American plantations, where labor practices and ecological particularities threatened the literal and conceptual boundaries that separated persons from the natural world.

Integrating political philosophy and ecocriticism with literary analysis, Ariel’s Ecology explores the forms of personhood that developed out of New World plantations, from Georgia and Florida through Jamaica to Haiti and extending into colonial metropoles such as Philadelphia. Allewaert’s examination of the writings of naturalists, novelists, and poets; the oral stories of Africans in the diaspora; and Afro-American fetish artifacts shows that persons in American plantation spaces were pulled into a web of environmental stresses, ranging from humidity to the demand for sugar. This in turn gave rise to modes of personhood explicitly attuned to human beings’ interrelation with nonhuman forces in a process we might call ecological.

Certainly the possibility that colonial life revokes human agency haunts works from Shakespeare’s Tempest and Montesquieu’s Spirit of the Laws to Spivak’s theories of subalternity. In Allewaert’s interpretation, the transformation of colonial subjectivity into ecological personhood is not a nightmare; it is, rather, a mode of existence until now only glimmering in Che Guevara’s dictum that postcolonial resistance is synonymous with “perfect knowledge of the ground.”

Monique Allewaert is assistant professor of English at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
Title:Ariel's Ecology: Plantations, Personhood, and Colonialism in the American TropicsFormat:PaperbackDimensions:248 pages, 8.5 × 5.5 × 0.6 inPublished:July 11, 2013Publisher:University of Minnesota PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:081667728X

ISBN - 13:9780816677283

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Table of Contents


Introduction: Tempest in the Plantation Zone


1. Swamp Sublime: Ecology and Resistance in the American Plantation Zone

2. Plant Life: Tropical Vegetation, Agencied Matter, and Cosmopolitical Form


3. On Parahumanity: Creole Stories and the Suspension of the Human

4. Persons without Objects: Afro-American Materialisms from Fetishes to Personhood


5. Involving the Universe in Ruins: Sansay’s Haitian Anabiography

Epilogue: Afterlives of Ariel’s Ecology




Editorial Reviews

"The book brims with theoretical and aesthetic insights on every page...With its inclusion of delightful botanical plates, rare archival documents, maps, engravings, and paintings, Ariel's Ecology will not only attract an interdisciplinary audience of scholars, educators, and students, but will also speak to a broader audience curious about subject formation in the American tropics."—Southern Spaces"With capacious readings across a wide range of print, manuscript, and oral texts both from the colonial period and beyond, Allewaert makes a methodological argument for the use of extra-generic sources in early American criticisms. A crucial intervention not only in materialist and postcolonial ecocriticisms, but also in political theory, diasporic American studies, and early American studies generally."—ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment"Ariel’s Ecology provides a valuable, thought-provoking guide to this environment and those histories, and it will undoubtedly spur further thinking and writing in its wake."—Clio