University of Tasmania

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The political rationalities of island geography: Preliminary thoughts on the ideological freight of island metaphor

conference contribution
posted on 2023-05-24, 16:17 authored by Andrew HarwoodAndrew Harwood, Peter Hay
There are routine appraisals of the centrality of the island metaphor within western culture. John Gillis, for example, has claimed that “Western culture not only thinks about islands, but thinks with them” (2004: 1). Likewise, the contradictory status of island geography is well subscribed within island studies: prison and paradise; isolated and connected; radical other to and microcosm of the mainland. In this paper we report on preliminary investigations into the diverse political rationalities that are taken to flow from these assessments. Note, for example, the oppositional metaphoric meanings arising from John Donne’s ‘no man is an island’ to the isolation trope as a metaphor for the heroic, stand-alone individual. Where the political implications of the latter are deeply libertarian, the political implications of the Chaucerian metaphoric tradition are collectivist. Building on and bringing together previous work, we conduct our analysis through a review of island studies literature and reflections on governance in the island-state of Tasmania.


Publication title

15th Islands of the World Conference 2017


School of Geography, Planning and Spatial Sciences

Event title

15th Islands of the World Conference 2017

Event Venue

Kangaroo Island, Australia

Date of Event (Start Date)


Date of Event (End Date)


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Government and politics not elsewhere classified

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