This exhibit is intended to function as a digital platform for engaging with Defoe's Review. The motivating thrust of this endeavor is to build a digital space for racially conscious public engagement with one of the first modern periodicals to be printed in the English language. The editors of the digital publication, sx archipelagos, capture the intellectual goal behind this curation of the Review when they stress that incisive scholarship showcases "the Caribbean itself as a dynamic and fluid cultural space: it is generated from disparate places and by disparate peoples; it challenges fundamentally the geographical and physical barriers that disrupt or disallow connection; and it places others and elsewheres in relentless relation. Yet while we celebrate these opportunities for connectedness, we also must make certain that our work in the digital realm undermines and confronts rather than re-inscribes forms of silencing and exclusion in the Caribbean" (about us).
This map is an attempt at criticism that takes an anti-eurocentric perspective to an avowedly eurocentric publication. The Caribbean forms the center of all relations in this map. Such a representation of the Review is in direct opposition to Defoe's conception of the same. For Defoe, England or, as we will see over the course of this timeline, Great Britain, is the center of the world. The Caribbean is a colonial outpost, an outpost threatened by bourgeois nationalisms from France, the Netherlands, Spain, and Portugal. However, at this outpost, especially the islands of Jamaica and Barbados, sugar plantations sustained on African slave labor are generating immense wealth for the English nation. The wealth of nations was considered to be reflected in its balance of trade, and the money made through the export of Caribbean sugar was contributing immensely to this measure. A healthy balance of trade makes for a wealthy nation that can fend for itself in the pan-European struggle for power. Such was the thinking at the time.
But when we shift our attention away from Europe and across the Atlantic, a different perspective emerges. We suddenly realize how crucially important this outpost is to the future of the British nation, as Defoe frequently puts it. But even more importantly, the use of slave labor and its central position as the means of production that is sustaining an international political economy becomes all too apparent to ignore. Ostensibly in the business of creating a wealthy nation, the dominant mode of production at this time is predicated on a system of inequality that operates along racial lines. By centering our attention on the Island Colonies, we notice how peripheral colony is central to the sustainance of the nation-state.
More information on the rationale and objectives of this curation can be found here.
all images of the Review courtesy of the HathiTrust Digital Library.