Urban Encounters with Nature and the Search for Equality in the Webs of the City: Tropic of Orange by Karen Tei Yamashita
This paper examines Karen Tei Yamashita’s Tropic of Orange (1997) within two different yet interconnected contexts: the interaction between natural environment and urban spaces, and the detrimental impact of global capitalism on socially, legally, and economically disadvantaged communities. Yamashita’s multilayered narrative set in Mexico, Los Angeles, and the Mexico–United States border explores complex socio-economic and political networks to reveal the exploitative policies prompted by the myth of progress. Yamashita demonstrates that these policies have not only exploited human labor but also commodified natural resources for centuries by disregarding their intrinsic value. The author conveys her critique through the magic realist elements that are interwoven with the realist arc of the fragmented storylines. This fantastic dimension, I argue, generates new critical spaces on geographical and textual levels in the novel, and gives voice to all those that are excluded from the myth of progress such as the poor, the homeless, the ethnically and legally marginalized, and the non-human. My analysis draws mainly from Jason W. Moore’s formulation of the “Capitalocene” and “Cheap Natures,” and Edward W. Soja’s understanding of “Thirdspace.”
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