Whether as sublime landscape, malignant wilderness or site for environmental conflicts and eco-tourism, tropical nature is to a great extent an American and European imaginative construct, conveyed in literature, travel writing, drawings, paintings, photographs and diagrams. These images are central to Nancy Leys Stepan’s view that a critical examination of the “tropicalization of nature” can remedy some of the most persistent misrepresentations of the tropics and its peoples. This book reflects on the work of several 19th- and 20th-century scientists and artists, including Alexander von Humboldt, Alfred Russel Wallace, Louis Agassiz, Sir Patrick Manson and Margaret Mee. Their careers illuminate several aspects of tropicalization: science and art in the making of tropical pictures; the commercial and cultural boom in things tropical in the modern period; photographic attempts to represent tropical hybrid races; anti-tropicalism and its role in an emerging environmentalist sensibility; and visual depictions of disease in the new tropical medicine. Essential to Stepan’s analysis are the responses to European projections of artists, scientists and intellectuals living in tropical regions.
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