The Struggle to be Temperate: Climate and “Moral Masculinity” in Mid-Nineteenth Century Ceylon

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This paper examines a particular type of imperial literature, the writing of the plantation in mid-nineteenth century Ceylon. These writings, by and for the male planting community, were written to recruit, instruct and entertain, and drew upon discourses of tropicality and moral masculinity. But discourses are constrained by the material conditions under which they are put into practice. Consequently, writings about a place such as highland Ceylon recognised the divergence of this place from the archetypal tropics. Accounts, nevertheless, remained within the conceptual grid that Livingstone (1991) has termed the “morality of climate.” These texts were also pervaded by the discourse of moral masculinity. More particularly, the narrative structure of these writings was inflected by the masculinist adventure novel, which was cross-cut by concerns of race, class, religion and nationality. The tropical highlands were represented as an adversary that presented a moral test of the planters' manhood, race and class.

Document Type: Original Article


Affiliations: Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, UK

Publication date: March 1, 2000

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