Islands: Introduction



Welcome to the ninth issue of The Funambulist, dedicated to islands. Beyond the desire to bring a new geographical trope into the editorial line of a magazine that has mostly looked at continental situations throughout its first eight issues, this dossier intends to challenge the usual continental imaginary of islands. In this imaginary, islands are always approached from the sea (or in 20th and 21st century occurrences, from the sky), and they constitute, through varying degrees of explicitness, territories to be “discovered,” appropriated, and colonized. This is the sense of Daniel Defoe’s 1719 novel, the well-known Robinson Crusoe, dramatizing the life of a British man stranded for twenty years on a supposedly “un-inhabited island,” who establishes, little by little, the conditions ad of the legal and sovereignty systems of European life on it, including through the domination of the native islanders. The notion of an “un-inhabited island,” present even in the original title of the novel, is symptomatic of the self-legitimizing colonial act that either denies the presence of indigenous lives or does not award them the status of inhabitants — which etymologically attributes a link of possession of some sort between bodies and territories.