Michael Boyden: “Climatic Sensibility in American Travel Writing on the Caribbean”

Uppsala Travel Writing Seminar (RELS)

(NB, new venue)

Michael Boyden: “Climatic Sensibility in American Travel Writing on the Caribbean"


Presentation
The biggest challenge of the twenty-first century is to bring the affects of public life into relation with the intractable problem of globalclimatic change. In my talk I discuss how this perceived gap between climate and sensibility predates the rise of modern climatology and has deep roots in the era of colonial expansion, when the American tropics were transformed into the economic supplier for Euro-American empires. I intend to illustrate how the writings of Euro-American travelers in the Caribbean registered and pushed forward this new understanding of the climate during a pivotal juncture in Atlantic history, roughly between 1770 and 1860, which witnessed fraught debates on the plantation system and its human and environmental costs. By thus suggesting a longer genealogy of modern climate thinking, I hope to bring out the urgency of revisiting received ideas of tropicality deeply ingrained in modern society that continue to inform current debates on climate debt and justice.