The Politics of Place: Reinventing the Edenic Garden in Jamaica Kincaid's "A Small Place", My Garden (Book)" and "Among Flowers"
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Since Christopher Columbus's 1492 discovery of the New World, the Caribbean islands have served as British colonizers' topographical and metaphorical representation of the Garden of Eden. Writers like Jamaica Kincaid have described this ideal/idyllic Edenic Garden which humanity desires to recreate from the biblical image, particularly since the Renaissance revival of Christianity. Jamaica Kincaid, as a Caribbean American writer, describes what the Edenic Garden means to her ancestors and for Antigua, a small place in the Caribbean islands which now depends on tourism as the nation's main industry. Tourism allows the Caribbean to be pictorially narrated as a postcard image of paradise for white tourists and yields issues of neocolonialism, economic and environmental exploitation. In her writings, Jamaica Kincaid both implicitly and explicitly engages the discourse of Edenic inventions and reproduction. She shows how British colonizers settled down in the Caribbean islands to reinvent the ideal Garden of Eden. Through her memories of Antiguan and the British botanical gardens, Kincaid shows that gardening, like tourism in the Caribbean, exploits nature and the natives of the Third world where exotic seeds originate. Also, by cultivating her own garden in Vermont, Kincaid demonstrates how gardening in the First world can also become a form of reverse colonialism. The three texts I discuss in my thesis, A Small Place (1988), My Garden (Book) (2001) and Among Flowers (2005), describe how Antigua and the Himalaya are configured and constructed as a Paradise for foreign tourists and how much they, as the invested visitors, exploit nature. To investigate this work, I will go over a brief outline of Caribbean history and British colonialism, which is necessary in reading Kincaid's texts and understand the introduction of Christianity into Caribbean culture. As the Garden of Eden can become either a Paradise or a prison for the participants in the narrative, Jamaica Kincaid as a Caribbean American writer, who writes and publishes in the First White world society appears as a "layered double consciousness" in her texts. As the narrator, Kincaid becomes both an insider and outsider and, therefore, she complicates her readers' relationship with this tourist-narrator and the natives living in the place. Kincaid is a writer who wisely crisscrosses the two worlds and makes her text more intriguing. The comparison between these three texts and subtle changes of Kincaid's status as both an outsider and insider observer of the Caribbean islands will be discussed in the following paper along with the question of her narrative double strategy reflecting the double perspectives of her en/gazing. Jamaica Kincaid's writings represent both a critique of the legacy of colonialism in the postcolonial countries and the sophisticated, new development of a reverse colonialism in the developed ones.