Theses Doctoral

The Hostile Tropics: Towards a Postcolonial Discourse of Climate

Banful, Akua A.

This dissertation argues that climate is both a meteorological reality and an ideological term that operates in the discursive matrix of empire. Nowhere was this more perceptible than the tropics, which were the most prolific theater for conquest and colonization, generating discourses that traveled across empires, constructing the tropics as a region of untold wealth that was hostile to European health. This dissertation considers how figurations of the climate in works set across the tropics from 1899 to 1992 negotiated the ideological paradoxes that surrounded the end of empire, the political and aesthetic project of decolonization, and a postcolonial reckoning with Atlantic World Slavery.

Through readings of works by Joseph Conrad, E.M. Forster, Alejo Carpentier, Pepetela, and Caryl Phillips, I show how colonial theorizations of the tropics as a counter-civilizational force resonated across British, Spanish, and Portuguese discourses of the tropics that cut across Africa, South Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. This shared theorization, which imagines tropical climates as destructive to the trappings of European colonial modernity, interrogates the stability of empire and becomes a means to imagine alternate political realities.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
English and Comparative Literature
Thesis Advisors
Edwards, Brent Hayes
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 17, 2022