BioSarah DeMott received her Ph.D. in International Education from New York University and is currently working as a Digital Research Specialist at NYU Bobst Libraries providing consultations on digital culture and data analysis. Her research considers cartographies of power across the Mediterranean Sea by tracing patterns of relationships and mobility between North Africa and Southern Europe. She is the recipient of awards from the Social Science Research Council, Cambridge University, and the American Institute of Maghrib Studies.
Tropical by Design: French Empire and Afro-Asian Circulations across the Tropical World, 1880-1970 is a SSRC Transregional co-authored comparative InterAsia book project. We seek to compare the concept of “tropicality” as it was operationalized through French colonial technologies circulated along the tropical latitudes of North Africa (Tunisia and Algeria) and Indochina (Vietnam and Cambodia,) and translated through connections among “tropical” communities In 1947 French geographer Pierre Gourou, Les Pays Tropicaux, defined the “tropical world” as a latitude of development, encompassing monsoon Asia, and extending to the southern limits of Tunisian along the Sahara Desert--similar to French historian Ferdinand Braudel in The Mediterranean Sea in the Age of Phillip II (1949) made by demarcating the agricultural line of the date palm as the limits of the Mediterranean region. In dialogue with the writing of Gourou, Braudel, and others, this project uses archival data and oral histories to elucidate the roots of a transnational index by looking across a spatial horizon at ways in which Afro-Asian continental connections were imprinted through an imperial lexicon of tropicality. In the post-colonial period, the figure of tropicality became a clarion to recuperate equatorial lands and practices stretched by the experiment of empire. The aim of Tropical by Design is to trace the repurposing of the colonial laboratory through sites of "tropicality" as redefined by Afro-Asian proto-national communities.