Abstract

Through rereading the artist, naturalist, and entrepreneur Maria Sibylla Merian's work on nature in Surinam, this article argues that private entrepreneur-naturalists like Merian, both men and women, participated in the capitalist exploitation of colonial natural resources and reinforced the racial ideology that the critical race theorist Cheryl I. Harris has called "whiteness as property." Entrepreneur-naturalists defined whiteness and white privilege through constructing the domestic sphere as a colonial institution for science. By promoting the culture of curiosity at home, Merian's publication increased the gendered racial stratification of intellectual and manual labor, making white labor hypervisible and slave labor invisible. Contrary to leading historians' interpretations that reduce the entrepreneur-naturalists' colonization projects to a sum of private and allegedly apolitical domestic enterprises, this article proves the naturalists constructed key concepts in the development of modern science, such as empiricism, curiosity, the domestic sphere, and the public, as highly political gendered racial ideologies.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-2036
Print ISSN
1042-7961
Pages
pp. 91-116
Launched on MUSE
2012-09-06
Open Access
No
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