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Ecological Colonization: Reflections on Alien Soil by Jamaica Kincaid

The Unknown's picture

It was interesting to me this idea that landscapes must fit within people’s comfortable definitions of what they are meant to consist of. I was frustrated with the simplistic generalizations the author made about the Antiguans. She made vast assumptions on what seemed to be little experience. She conjectured many ideas about the knowledge of Antiguans about their plants and the origins of these plants based on what seemed to be an insufficient amount of research.

I did think the authors’ connection between slavery and the Antiguans relationship to plants was profound. She did suggest that Antiguans would like to improve their relationship to agriculture, but they still want to see themselves as dominant or controlling of the plants. This notion of “cultural gardening” explains why the Antiguans see plants as a source of food and survival, where as others use plants for aesthetic purposes.

I was intrigued by the way the author used the Christmas tree to demonstrate how the dominant, invading, or colonizing culture can become embedded into peoples traditions and daily lives without an explanation. Many continue to practice rituals, even if they do not know the origin of these customs. Part of this imbedding of one culture consists of naming or labeling symbols of connection and gathering. This is an example of social and cultural acceptance and mimicry.

I had not really pondered the ecological effects of colonialization before this article. The author even discusses belittling plants. 

Another theme of this article is the stealing and transporting of plants. Though we know this has destroyed much of the diversity of the world’s ecosystems, this is also a natural consequence of the integration of cultures and dissemination of knowledge. Each plant, food, and animal has a historical, ecological, and cultural background. 

I appreciated the connections the author made between gardening and wealth. There are few gardeners who write books on gardening.

The author also discusses the changing of the meanings and importance of different plants in her life.

This quote possibly explains people from the United States’ relationship to plants: “Americans are impatient with memory, which is one of the things order thrives on” (Kincaid 5).