Gardening in Polluted Tropics: The Materiality of Waste and Toxicity in Olive Senior’s Caribbean Poetry




Toxicity, Wasteocene, pollution, Caribbean poetry, tropical materialisms, Olive Senior, material ecocriticism, guerrilla narratives


While toxic substances continue increasingly, and unevenly, infiltrating the world, the new materialist turn invites us to examine the relationalities emerging between pollution and literature. This essay examines how Olive Senior’s poetry collection Gardening in the Tropics portrays the imposition of waste and toxicity on Caribbean islands and the counter-narratives to toxic politics that emerge from non-hegemonic perspectives. The paper utilizes methodological contributions from the fields of waste studies, postcolonial and material ecocriticism, and addresses the need for more scholarship centering toxicity in cultural studies, especially through the lens of tropical materialisms. Moreover, the research engages with theorizations surrounding the concept of the Wasteocene as a novel interpretative framework. The main findings reveal that the poems “My Father’s Blue Plantation”, “The Immovable Tenant” and “Advice and Devices” identify how extensive pollution is enabled and perpetuated by colonial systems. The poems illustrate the environmental and socio-political tensions prompted by toxicity, its deleterious effects in organisms and landscapes, and embody how guerrilla narratives can confront widespread toxicity.

Author Biography

Ysabel Muñoz Martínez, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway

Ysabel Muñoz Martínez is a PhD candidate in English Literature at the Department of Language and Literature (NTNU), where she works with the transdisciplinary project Narrating Sustainability. She holds a Bachelor in Letters from the University of Havana (2017). In 2020, she received a Chevening scholarship to complete the MLitt. Environment, Culture and Communication at the University of Glasgow (2021). Muñoz is an environmental humanities scholar whose research interests include Caribbean culture, material ecocriticism, ecofeminism, post/decolonial studies and affect theory. As an activist, she has written several articles and participated in campaigns and conferences working towards sustainability in the Caribbean context.


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How to Cite

Muñoz Martínez, Y. (2022). Gardening in Polluted Tropics: The Materiality of Waste and Toxicity in Olive Senior’s Caribbean Poetry. ETropic: Electronic Journal of Studies in the Tropics, 21(2), 162–179.