Publication Details

Collett, A. A. (1998). Gardening in the tropics: a horticultural guide to Carribbean politics and poetics, with special reference to the poetry of Olive Senior. Span: journal of the South Pacific Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies, (46 April), 87-103.


"Economic Botany" of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was an enormously effective colonizing force, whose power I would suggest, lay in the de-personalizing nature of its discourse and its nominative function. The botanical re-naming of plants indigenous to the new world had the effect of erasing all historical claim to ownership by disrupting the original relationship between nature and culture. A process of naming that laid claim to an objective and universalizing relationship between the "man of science" and his botanical specimen was an effective colonizing tool in which tropical plants were dispersed and displaced from their naturai and cultural habitation to be reimagined and re-planted as commercial commodity. Olive Senior's collection of poetry, Gardening in the Tropics, attempts to destabilize this colonizing discourse through a counter-process of remembering and recounting original name and original function - re-personalizing and re-politicizing the complex storyed relationship between plant, w/Word and community.