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Sowing Empire

Landscape and Colonization

2004
Author:

Jill H. Casid

Sowing Empire

Identifies the cultivation and landscaping of colonies as one of the primary ways imperial nations justified their empires

Planting, transplanting, and seeding—landscaping practices that emerged in the eighteenth century—are inextricable from the contested terrain of empire within which they operated.

Utilizing a wide range of sources—maps, literature, and travel writing—Jill H. Casid considers imperialism—its patriarchal organization, heterosexual reproduction, and slavery—and how it contributed to the construction of imperial power.

Sowing Empire is an important, engaged, and unusual examination of the colonial landscape.

Ann Bermingham, University of California, Santa Barbara

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 Beckford’s estate at Fonthill to Marie Antoinette’s 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.


Sowing Empire

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.

Sowing Empire

Sowing Empire is an important, engaged, and unusual examination of the colonial landscape.

Ann Bermingham, University of California, Santa Barbara

Brilliant in its thesis, wide-ranging in literary and visual references, sophisticated in its use of theory, and beautifully written, Sowing Empire will make a powerful impression in eighteenth-century cultural studies.

George Haggerty, University of California, Riverside

Casid brings a psychoanalytic orientation to her work and makes sophisticated use of vocabularies of dreamwork, displacement, and cathexis. Casid shows the significance of sharpening our social- and cultural-historical perspectives with knowledge of natural history.

Eighteenth-Century Studies

In her book Sowing Empire: Landscape and Colonization, Jill Casid presents a compelling study in one of the most beautiful and imaginative books on empire. The book itself is a beautiful material object.

Studies in English Literature

Sowing Empire represents the welcome opening-out of imperial studies from the political and economic realms through which historians have too often written empire upon an environmental blank sheet.

International History Review

In this innovative study Casid has made a serious contribution to the better understanding of colonial landscapes and added new depth to themes long studied by historical geographers.

Journal of Historical Geography

Drawing on a plethora of disciplines, Casid constructs a captivating, and at times bewildering, look at postcolonialism in the 18th century Caribbean.

Choice

Sowing Empires is a dense, exhaustively researched book that contributes usefullyif primarily—to 18th century studies, and also to cultural geography, particularly for those who use landscape as the basis for interdisciplinary work. . . . The threads of meaning Casid weaves so skillfully—she writes superbly—are important and unusual. . . . This wide-ranging and scholarly book, works from a perspective less often taken by English-speaking scholars. This book is rewarding and provocative, addresses an audience as critically engaged as its author.

Cultural Geographies

Sowing Empire

contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction: On the Psychogeographies of Empire

CHAPTER 1 The Hybrid Production of Empire
CHAPTER 2 Transplanting the Metropole
CHAPTER 3 Imperial Nurseries
CHAPTER 4 Some Queer Versions of Georgic
CHAPTER 5 Countercolonial Landscapes

Conclusion: Empire’s Displacements

Notes

Index