Paul Giles
the archipelagic impact, as presented in this engaging collection of essays,
depends upon an intersection of two complementary but in some ways antithetical
vectors. One such vector, as Brian Russell Roberts and Michelle Ann Stephens
suggest in their introduction, involves “metageo graphical remappings,” the con-
ceptual rearrangement of planetary space according to alternative geographies.
The other, though, involves what they call, citing George B. Handley, a “phe-
nomenological encounter with natu ral forms,” a sense of the archipelagic en-
vironment as inherently diff er ent from more abstract continental designs. As J.
Michael Dash indicates in his contribution here, this kind of “conflict between
two antagonistic ideas,” between “placeless thought or conceptual transparency,”
on the one hand, and “thought as matter in all its material specificity,” on the
other, was also fundamental to the work of Édouard Glissant, whose writings
have prob ably helped shape the “archipelagic turn” more than anyone else’s. The
inherently paradoxical dimensions of Glissant’s oeuvre, its capacity to move at
the same time in two contrary directions, is replicated in the self- dissolving ten-
dencies of an archipelagic imaginary that both evokes and revokes geo graphical
premises si mul taneously.
It is the second of these vectors, the material specificity of the archipelago,
that has been evident most recently in the aspects of archipelagic thought that
have circulated in the US acad emy. We witness this kind of oppositional stance
in the section titled “Archipelagic Thought” in the Las Américas Quarterly
issue of American Quarterly in September 2014, one predicated upon the idea of
locality as re sis tance, of ethno- racialized subjects resisting the terms of official
US subjecthood.1 Appearing in the American Studies Association’s house jour-
nal, the cluster of essays under the heading “Archipelagic Thought” used Ca-
rib bean nations as its starting point, putting Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Haiti into
conversation with each other.2 This book of essays collected by Roberts and Ste-
phens engages in some ways with a similar kind of premise, but it also expands
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