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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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Tropics of Nature

Tropics of Nature

(p.187) CHAPTER 7 Tropics of Nature
Space in the Tropics

Peter Redfield

University of California Press

As a first step in bringing the penal colony and space center together, this chapter examines what “place” means in each context, tracing nineteenth-century climatic theories and obsessions with race, disease, death rates, and reproduction in the penal colony against the twentieth-century rise of ecological discourse and immigration concerns in French Guiana. It also addresses the aestheticization of nature surrounding the contemporary space center, focusing on ways of marking time in the tropics, from prison sentences to jungle tours, and comparing a search for authenticity to one for survival. From the perspective of the economic history of French Guiana, the comparison of the penal colony and the space center appears inevitable. Unlikely a pair as they may be, the two play similar roles as central state projects, uneasily married to the rest of Guyanais society. Each created a settlement to suit its needs, while contributing to the hollow nature of French Guiana's economy. At the same time, there are significant differences in the practical administration of the penal colony and space center, and the rationale behind each project remains strikingly different.

Keywords:   Penal colony, French Guiana's economy, immigration concerns, space center, Guyanais society

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