Postcolonial Nations, Islands, and Tourism examines how real and literary islands have helped to shape the idea of the nation in a postcolonial world. Through an analysis of a variety of texts ranging from literature to prison correspondence to tourist questionnaires it exposes the ways in which nationalism relies on fictions of insularity and intactness, which the island and island tourism appear to provide. The island space seems to offer the ideal replica of the nation, and tourist practices promise the liberation of leisure, the gaze, and mobility. However, the very reliance on the constantly shifting and eroding island form exposes an anxiety about boundaries and limits on the part of the postcolonial nation. In appropriating island tourism, the new nation tends to recapitulate the failures and crises of the colonial nation before it.
Starting with the first literary tourist, Robinson Crusoe, Postcolonial Nations, Islands, and Tourism goes on to show how authors such as JM Coetzee, Romesh Gunesekera, and Julian Barnes have explored the outlines and implications of islandness. It argues that each text expresses a profound discomfort with national form by undoing the form of the island through a variety of narrative strategies and rhetorical manoeuvres. By throwing the category of the island into crisis, these texts let uncertainties about the postcolonial nation and its violent practices emerge as doubt in the narratives themselves. Finally, in its selection of texts that shuttle between South Africa, Great Britain, and Sri Lanka, equalizing the former colonial metropole and its outposts, it offers an alternative disciplinary mapping of current postcolonial writing.
Introduction: On Violence and Visuality / Chapter I. A Literature of Failure: Reading Foe and Defoe / Chapter II. On Seeing England for the First Time (Again) / Chapter III. “A New Kind of Safari”: Gunesekera’s Sri Lanka / Chapter IV. The Rim of Things / Chapter V. “Every Native Would Like a Tour”
Helen Kapstein is Associate Professor of English at John Jay College, CUNY.
The book is an enjoyable, richly developed monograph which uses critical theory “to return a critical gaze on the normative and ideal island space.” … To rethink the island begs the question of what replaces it, locating island and archipelagic studies squarely in the unique, interdisciplinary position to confront some of the most pressing challenges of our time. The stakes are high with the compounded problems of climate change, limits to growth, geopolitical tensions over immigration and refugees, the rise in nationalism, etc. Abandoning such island myths and mentalities is imperative; Kapstein proves why it is necessary and proper to so argue forcefully.
In this important and beautifully-written book, Helen Kapstein brings together Robinson Crusoe and Robben Island Museum, metaphorical and material spaces, the aesthetics of reading and the economics of tourism. Conceptually challenging and eminently readable, Postcolonial Nations, Islands, and Tourism transforms our view of all its component terms.
Islands have boundaries that are clear yet contestable: they enable and counter discourses of national identity, history, and memory. In Postcolonial Nations, Islands, and Tourism, Helen Kapstein offers a deft and engaging assessment of their role as metaphor, metonym, and material space in a range of postcolonial (and postimperial) literary texts and cultural objects. This is an original and important study.
Postcolonial Nations, Islands, and Tourism is an insistently insightful book that crosses disciplines and geographies with impressive ease. Helen Kapstein brings postcolonial studies, the environmental humanities, and tourist studies into dynamic conversation. She is a wonderful reader of material and imaginative islands and an eloquent witness to the costs and consequences of insular thinking.
This is a splendid contribution to postcolonial studies in so many ways. It not only provides cogent analyses of important texts in the field, but also comes to terms with the complex formations and interrelations of islands and states. It provides a vital comparative and geographic sense of postcolonial writing. Highly recommended.