This essay examines a moment in Richard Ligon’s A True and Exact History of the Island of Barbados (1657) where Ligon describes the insects on the island. By looking at the ways bugs like the caterpillars, ants, and chegoes of the island continuously blur the boundary between the human and insect world by invading the Europeans’ homes, plundering their food, and burrowing into their bodies, I argue that Ligon’s narrative uses insects as encoded emblems to address the fragile position of Barbados as an English colony and challenge the idea that the English held firm mastery over the land, environment, or the self. What is at stake in this reading is how we imagine the beginnings of European colonization, and I argue Ligon’s bugs illuminate a world where the human was not firmly in the center and race-based hierarchy was not yet a foregone conclusion. In recognizing this, I hope to deconstruct the human and non-human binary and dismantle the “myth of European colonization” (Ian Watt) that narratives like Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719) have created in our cultural imagination. Ultimately, in granting insects the recognition and power they have over human life, Ligon’s History can help us begin to de-center the human and open up the possibility of a more fluid worldview.
Hansen, Sabrina A..
"Barbados, Bugs, and Blurred Borders: Reimagining the Myth of European Colonization."
The Quiet Corner Interdisciplinary Journal,
Available at: https://digitalcommons.lib.uconn.edu/tqc/vol3/iss1/1