epi logue
T R O P I C A L F U T U R E S
Civilizing Citizens and Uncivilizing Tourists
These beaches are up for grabs. The tourists say they own them. They are the ultimate frontier, visible
evidence of our past wanderings and our present distress.
Edouard Glissant, Caribbean Discourse, 1989
But on our tourist brochures the Caribbean is a blue pool into which the republic dangles the extended
foot of Florida as inflated rubber islands bob and drinks with umbrellas float toward her on a raft. This
is how the islands, from the shame of necessity, sell themselves; this is the seasonal erosion of their
identity, that high pitched repetition of the same images of service that cannot distinguish one island
from the other, with the future of polluted marinas, land deals negotiated by ministers, and all of this
conducted to music at Happy Hour and the rictus of a smile.
Derek Walcott, The Antilles, 1995
he visual vocabulary of the Anglophone Caribbean first enunciated at the end
of the nineteenth century continues to color representations of the is-
lands. A contemporary postcard of Jamaica, captioned ‘‘Colours of Jamaica,’’
reveals an assemblage of many of the prevailing tropes of tropicality examined through-
out this book (plate 36). A black man and woman, whose headscarf recalls the figure
of the market woman, appear in the postcard holding tropical fruit—the banana and
papaya. The primary visual signifiers and export commodities of the New Jamaica—
associated with American enterprise, British civilization, and local modernity—remain
central to the postcard’s commodity form. The black figures appear on the more recent
photographic backdrop of the beach—a mid-twentieth-century addition to the cast of
tropicality. Both models, whose faces we cannot see, look toward the sea. The woman’s
gaze recalls the very act of looking at the beach as a commodity. The black male’s de-
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