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Sowing Empire: Landscape and Colonizationby Jill H. Casid
Synopses & Reviews
Planting and transplanting, seeding and reshaping—landscaping practices that emerged in the eighteenth century—are inextricable from the contested terrain of empire within which they operated. From the plantations of the “nabobs” to the island gardens of narrative fiction, from William Beckfords estate at Fonthill to Marie Antoinettes ornamented farm, Sowing Empire considers imperial relandscaping—its patriarchal organization, heterosexual reproduction, and slavery—and how it contributed to the construction of imperial power. At the same time, the book shows how these picturesque landscapes and sugar plantations contained within them the seeds of resistance—how, for instance, slave gardens and the Afro-Caribbean practice of Vodou threatened authority and created new possibilities for once again transforming the landscape.In an ambitious work of wide-ranging literary, visual, and historical allusion, Jill H. Casid examines how landscaping functioned in an imperial mode that defined and remade the “heartlands” of nations as well as the contact zones and colonial peripheries in the West and East Indies. Revealing the colonial landscape as far more than an agricultural system—as a means of regulating national, sexual, and gender identities—Casid also traces how the circulation of plants and hybridity influenced agriculture and landscaping on European soil and how colonial contacts materially shaped what we take as “European.”Utilizing a wide range of both visual and written sources—maps, literature, and travel writing—this book is interdisciplinary in its methodology and in its scope. Sowing Empire explores how postcolonial and queer studies can alter art history and visual studies and, in turn, what close attention to the visual may offer to both postcolonial theorizing and historically and materially based colonial cultural studies.Jill H. Casid is assistant professor of art history and part of the developing transdisciplinary program in visual culture studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Book News Annotation:
Casid (art history, U. of Wisconsin, Madison) explains how landscaping practices from the eighteenth century became a function of empiricism as well as a justification for it. She maintains that imperial landscaping, whether defined and refined at European capitols, practiced in the colonies, or idealized in novels, reinforced notions of patriarchy, heterosexual reproduction, and social hierarchy. She finds that the creation of a synthetic pastoral environment was a method of confining certain groups, whether as slaves on country plantations or homosexuals in the cities. She also finds that those so confined found ways to resist, for example, in the case of slaves claiming the landscape and seeking its retransformation through the practice of Vodou. Casid provides a number of period illustrations.
Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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