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Space in the TropicsFrom Convicts to Rockets in French Guiana$
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Peter Redfield

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780520219847

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520219847.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 03 July 2022

The Natural Prison

The Natural Prison

(p.76) CHAPTER 4 The Natural Prison
Space in the Tropics

Peter Redfield

University of California Press

This chapter marks the crucial slide of the penal colony from a space of improvement to a space of punishment. Although the penal colony retained the rhetorical trappings of moralization and development, its acknowledged purpose became more clearly punitive. The continued existence of the penal colony called Devils's Island, attracted an extraordinary measure of attention and sensationalization in France and beyond, particularly the English-speaking world. The chapter examines various sensational portrayals in terms of what they reveal about the topography of colonial anxieties. While Dreyfus's deportation was far from typical of the experience of convicts in French Guiana, and the outrage it provoked was not the first incidence of a public outcry against the bagne (penal colony), it captured the essential mood pervading accounts of the later penal colonies: despair amid the floating terror of distant tropics. For the last half century of its existence, the penal colony constituted a relatively stable social order. To balance its representation, this chapter quickly surveys some of the social facts involved.

Keywords:   Natural prison, penal colony, Devil's Island, French Guiana, bagne, Dreyfus's deportation

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