Bill Ashcroft

Oceans: The Space of Future Thinking 

Thomas More’s Utopia is located at the beginning of what Andre Lefebvre calls ‘historical space’ in which the ocean had unparalleled significance for imperial expansion. Whether as “free domain” in Hugo Grotius terms, or as a space of imagined utopias, or as promise of the coming network of global capitalism, the sea was a powerful space for thinking of the future. As with so many aspects of imperial expansion colonial resistance turned the utopian element of imperial ideology on its head. Islands, those territories found between the “old World” and the “New” that were immensely useful in the imperial object of “territorializing the unterritorializable” became the focus of postcolonial transformation through the agency of the utopian hope. Two regions in particular, Oceania and the Caribbean, though very different in colonial experience, population and territory, demonstrate a capacity for archipelagic thinking, that establish them as two of the most vibrant and powerful examples of such transformation. The sea, that had seemed to offer free reign to imperial capitalism, became the site of a reimagined future, the open space of the utopian imagination the lies at the core of postcolonial resistance.