Space Age Tropics
Space Age Tropics
Mimi Sheller's essay reminds readers that underlying the cultural geographies of the American Tropics there is a physical geography of mining and resource extraction which has aluminium at its very core. She depicts the relation between North America and the American Tropics as two inextricably linked faces to aluminium: the North Atlantic's dreams of mobility, speed and communication systems represent the gleaming side of modernity, while the harsher tropical reality of mining, labour exploitation, and environmental devastation represent the dark side of modernisation. Rather than a literary history, Sheller here offers a visual analysis of graphic illustrations that drew on literary tropes of the tropics, from botanical collection to ethnological depictions of racial types, music, and dance. Through her analysis of the transnational cultural geographies of the American tropics represented in these advertising images, Sheller also shows how the images testified to a cultural vitality and to a potentially threatening ‘mobility’. Despite the damage done to people and environment by bauxite mining, Caribbean countries remain active in planning for the expansion of aluminium production, attesting to the ongoing power of world economic processes to shape the region.
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