Bill Ashcroft


Ever since Thomas More’s Utopia islands have been primary sites for utopias, and the perfect location for the demonstration of the benefits of colonisation. From Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe in 1719 the moral architecture for colonial occupation had been set, and all features of colonial improvement could be concentrated on the clearly bounded space of an island. The utopian vision of the South Seas grew apace after Defoe, and the attraction of the Pacific Island in particular has been surprisingly persistent. The Pacific Island, under the influence of a string of eighteenth century utopias, the paintings of Gaugin, the anthropology of Margaret Mead and twentieth-century popular culture, became the archetypal utopian space, not only for its idyllic mythology and nicely circumscribed geography but also because, whether painter, anthropologist, traveller or coloniser it offered a social tabula rasa.



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