chapter  4
25 Pages

Ligon: Sugar and the Myth of Cure

This chapter advances the unfolding of the book’s design in the way it quickens the conceptual momentum and dramatizes the decisive interplay of orders and counterorders within the development of the Caribbean Atlantic imaginary. The fi rst part of the chapter focuses on the two main textual practices of cartography and visualization. Based on Ligon’s A Topographical Description and Admeasurement of the Island of Barbados in the West Indies (c. 1650), the discussion situates Ligon’s assumptions in both practices within the dominant orders of ideology and value that informed seventeenth-century English colonialism. Theorizing the dynamic nature of the map’s images, the immanent energies of movement within it, and the “hidden geometries” diffused around it, I posit the differentiated force of counterorders which resist and crosshatch the dominant orders. The second part of the chapter tracks the emphases of Ligon’s visualizations across the map, through its interstices and into the text of the History, in an attempt to recover the persistent challenges to the cartographer-historian-painter’s search for fi xity and stasis. Reducing the diverse images of the History to the three focal agencies of Amerindians, African male and African female slaves, I ascribe to them the categorical power of counterorders in determining the nature of the instituting imaginary. The counterordering power of their agency is theorized to reside chiefl y in their bodies and embodiments: in the invisible fl ows of memory and rememory (mnemics) coursing in their performance and resistance, and informing the kinesis of their labour and corporeality. The conceptual premise of the processual imaginary is repeated in the complex ordering of these agencies in Ligon’s scale of consequence. That ordering is often counterintuitive. The Amerindians, represented as a vanishing factor on the map, exceed their implied value in their practices of commensality and marronage. Within the “hidden arts” of these practices, they perpetuate the power of the indigenous imaginary. African male slaves redeem their image of haplessness and vulnerability as their bodies produce economic value and fi gure a high aesthetic ideal for an emerging colonial society. And the African female slaves, fi gured in a grotesque phantasm, paradoxically transvalue the

grotesque at this stage to become the highest expression of the counterordering imaginary.