Amid the Archipelagic States of America


Book Pages: 392 Illustrations: 68 illustrations Published: May 2021

American Studies, Cultural Studies > Ocean Studies, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

Conventional narratives describe the United States as a continental country bordered by Canada and Mexico. Yet, since the late twentieth century the United States has claimed more water space than land space, and more water space than perhaps any other country in the world. This watery version of the United States borders some twenty-one countries, particularly in the archipelagoes of the Pacific and the Caribbean. In Borderwaters Brian Russell Roberts dispels continental national mythologies to advance an alternative image of the United States as an archipelagic nation. Drawing on literature, visual art, and other expressive forms that range from novels by Mark Twain and Zora Neale Hurston to Indigenous testimonies against nuclear testing and Miguel Covarrubias's visual representations of Indonesia and the Caribbean, Roberts remaps both the fundamentals of US geography and the foundations of how we discuss US culture.


“Brian Russell Roberts's astonishing new paradigm recasts the United States as a nation of islands and oceans, engaging Benoit Mandelbrot (among others) to elucidate the archipelagic fractals of the Pacific and the Caribbean. Examining works ranging from Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God to Florence Frisbie's Miss Ulysses from Puka-Puka to the visual arts by Mexican artist Miguel Covarrubias, this detail-rich study is eye-opening in every way. Essential reading for all Americanists.” — Wai Chee Dimock, Yale University

“Offering an important new theoretical way of understanding American literature and culture, Brian Russell Roberts suggests how ‘archipelagic thinking’ can induce us to reconceive American literary culture as something other than a landlocked affair. Borderwaters should resonate widely among Americanists across a broad range of disciplinary fields and is certain to be widely influential.” — Paul Giles, author of Backgazing: Reverse Time in Modernist Culture


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Brian Russell Roberts is Professor of English at Brigham Young University, coeditor of Archipelagic American Studies and Indonesian Notebook: A Sourcebook on Richard Wright and the Bandung Conference, both also published by Duke University Press, and author of Artistic Ambassadors: Literary and International Representation of the New Negro Era.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix
Introduction. Archipelagic Thinking and the Borderwaters: A US-Eccentric Vision  1
1. Interlapping Continents and Archipelagoes of American Studies  45
2. Archipelagic Diaspora and Geographic Form  82
3. Borderwaters and Geometries of Being Amid 111
4. Fractal Temporality on Vulnerable Foreshores  159
5. Spiraling Futures of the Archipelagic States of America  202
Conclusion. Distant Reading the Archipelagic Gyre: Digital Humanities Archipelagoes  248
Notes  275
Bibliography  323
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Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-1185-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-1073-9