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In the Shadows of the Tropics: Climate, Race and Biopower in Nineteenth Century Ceylon

By: James S Duncan(Author)

228 pages, 8 photos, 3 maps, 4 tables


Paperback | Nov 2016 | #236165 | ISBN-13: 9781138262416
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £37.99 $50/€43 approx
Hardback | Nov 2007 | #236164 | ISBN-13: 9780754672265
Availability: Usually dispatched within 5 days Details
NHBS Price: £110.00 $143/€125 approx

About this book

In this original work James Duncan explores the transformation of Ceylon during the mid-nineteenth century into one of the most important coffee growing regions of the world and investigates the consequent ecological disaster which erased coffee from the island. Using this fascinating case study by way of illustration, In the Shadows of the Tropics reveals the spatial unevenness and fragmentation of modernity through a focus on modern governmentality and biopower. It argues that the practices of colonial power, and the differences that race and tropical climates were thought to make, were central to the working out of modern governmental rationalities. In this context, the usefulness of Foucault's notions of biopower, discipline and governmentality are examined. The work contributes an important rural focus to current work on studies of governmentality in geography and offers a welcome non-state dimension by considering the role of the plantation economy and individual capitalists in the lives and deaths of labourers, the destabilization of subsistence farming and the aggressive re-territorialization of populations from India to Ceylon.

"Anyone interested in colonialism should read this wide-ranging book, which explores the discourses and tactics of British imperial rule in the tropics. James Duncan's broad treatment of coffee-growing in Ceylon transforms our understanding of plantation economies in the post-slavery period. In the Shadows of the Tropics blends history, geography, and political economy with cultural and environmental studies, contributing effectively to all these fields."
– Lynn Hollen Lees, University of Pennsylvania, USA

"Through an extraordinary exploration of Ceylon's coffee culture, James Duncan manages to bring before our eyes the tropical world in all its multifarious variety. By throwing a spotlight on the coffee plantation, he is able to disentangle the threads that have gone into the making of that complex geographical entity – 'the tropics'. This book is about coffee; but it is just as much about medicine and morality, bodies and sex, colonial power and worker resistance. In the Shadows of the Tropics is a work of exceptional grace and clarity, whose author manages to triangulate the moral landscape of colonial Ceylon through the everyday experiences of European planters, Tamil labourers and Sinhalese peasants. Altogether a masterly piece of cultural cartography."
– David N. Livingstone, Queen's University Belfast, Northern Ireland

"[...] a welcome and highly significant contribution to the historical literature on Ceylon. It deserves a broad readership."
Architectural History Review


- Introduction
- The rise of the plantation economy
- Dark thoughts: reproducing whiteness in the tropics
- The quest to discipline estate labour
- The medical gaze and the spaces of bio-power
- Visualising crime in the coffee districts
- Landscapes of despair: the last years of coffee
- Conclusion
- Bibliography
- Index

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James S. Duncan is Reader in Cultural Geography, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, UK, and is Fellow of Emmanuel College, UK.

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