chapter  2
Natural hedonism
The invention of Caribbean islands as tropical playgrounds
Pages 16

Caribbean tourism is vested in the branding and marketing of Paradise. ‘It is the fortune, and the misfortune, of the Caribbean,’ argues Polly Pattullo, ‘to conjure up the idea of “heaven on earth” or “a little bit of Paradise” in the collective European imagination . . . a Garden of Eden before the Fall’ (Pattullo 1996: 142). Verdant forests, exotic flora and tropical greenery serve as powerful symbols of the ‘Eden’ that is imagined before European intrusion. Tobago is a place where you can ‘see the islands as Columbus first saw them’, for example, while Dominica is described as ‘still the primitive garden that Columbus first sighted in 1493. An area of tropical rainforests, flowers of incredible beauty and animals that exist nowhere else in the world’.1 In this chapter I demonstrate how such imagery picks up on longstanding visual and literary themes in European representations of Caribbean landscapes as microcosms of earthly paradise – including the temptation and corruption that go along with being new Edens. These discursive formations of Caribbean scenery are closely related to the emergence of ‘hedonism’ as a key set of practices associated with Caribbean tourism. Depictions of Caribbean ‘Edenism’, I argue, underwrite performances of touristic ‘hedonism’ by naturalising the region’s landscape and its inhabitants as avatars of primitivism, luxuriant corruption, sensual stimulation, ease and availability.2