Alexander Hamilton’s account of his thirty-five years as a merchant and ship’s captain in the Far East (c. 1688-1723) describes the interanimating processes of his acculturation to the peoples, languages, and cultures he encounters and his acclimatization to the monsoon-driven winds, tides, and seasons of a region alien to the experience of his British readers. In its geographical, environmental, and cultural specificity, Hamilton’s New Account rejects generic overviews in favor of a socioecological and biocultural analysis of South, Southeast and Far Eastern Asia. Hamilton demonstrates a sophisticated awareness of the feedback loops among climate, ecology, and culture in the monsoonal tropics, and his descriptions of the political ecology of Siam, Cambodia, Bencolon, and Johor reveal the ways in which currents, tides, winds, crops, flora, and fauna become, in Bruno Latour’s sense, actants within complex material networks. In this respect, A New Account both supplements and calls into question the production of biocultural knowledge by other Europeans who wrote about Southeast Asia.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Literature and Literary Theory