Decolonisation and the unhomely tropicality of Pierre Gourou and Orlando Ribeiro, 1943-1982

Dan Clayton*

*Corresponding author for this work

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This five-part article explores the connection between the geographers and tropical experts Pierre Gourou (1900-1999) and Orlando Ribeiro (1911-1997), and changing perspectives on their work and legacy, in the context of the double entendre of post-war decolonisation: what this term meant ‘then’ qua what it signifies ‘now’ (i.e. not only what matters today but also what, in the recent critical scheme of things, happens to successive interpretations of the past). The article alights on the ‘unhomely tropicality’ of these two geographers: a tropicality that does not fully fit either a decolonising ‘then’ or ‘now’, and that raises some interesting questions about the making and unravelling of epistemic privilege, and centres and margins of signification. We should not assume that the critique of tropicality, including that aimed in recent decades at Gourou and Ribeiro, is ‘settled.’
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages24
JournalRevista Terra Brasilis
Publication statusPublished - 30 Dec 2022


  • Decolonisation
  • Tropicality
  • Unhomely
  • Pierre Gourou
  • Orlando Ribeiro


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