Date of Award

Fall 2019

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Cultural Studies, PhD

Program

School of Arts and Humanities

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Eve Oishi

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

David Luis-Brown

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Joshua Goode

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2019 Michael P Wang

Abstract

Coloniality, or the living legacies and practices of the 500 years of European colonization, has produced racial, political, and cultural hierarchies around the colonial difference dividing East from West, center from periphery, civilization from the Global South. This dissertation examines a particular strand of coloniality in the Western narration and aesthetics of the Amazon basin, particularly the consequences of travel writing, science fiction and cinema of Amazon’s tropicality and its enduring effects on spatial cartography. In addressing Western representations of the jungle terrain, this paper focuses on the dichotomous relationship between the metropolitan center and the colonial outer-periphery exemplified by the Amazon basin. I take an alternative approach to understanding spatiality by applying what I call the coloniality of aesthetics to the spatial analysis of tropicality, illuminating the naturalized tendencies that articulate the Amazon as simultaneously a modern physical fantasy perpetually on the verge of colonial conquest and a mythological agent of horror that resists colonial conquest by its continued deferral of meaning production between the antagonism of nature and of civilization. The coloniality of aesthetics elucidates the West’s failure to figuratively conquer the land of the Amazon and suggests that such failures are crafted intentionally to preserve the aesthetics of conquest itself. This paper argues that the ontology of tropicality can be reestablished through a radical territorialization, one that centers the protagonism of the Amazon basin through the revelation of aesthetic modes that focus on the generative qualities of the South American rainforest. In doing so, I hope to expand the role of literary geocriticism through an exercise of spatial decolonization, one that prioritizes the often ignored terrain of the Amazon jungle.

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