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Pigeons, Prayers, and Pollution: Recoding the Amazon Rain Forest in Karen Tei Yamashita’s Through the Arc of the Rain Forest

Shalini Rupesh Jain



Karen Tei Yamashita’s novel, Through the Arc of the Rain Forest (1990), represents environmental, ethical, and economic dilemmas in an age of planetary environmental crisis, depicting clashes between predatory market forces and indigenous Amazonian indigenous communities. Yamashita’s use of magical realism simultaneously represents the value-laden ethos of a pre-literate society, even as it arguably portrays them as defenseless against the onslaught of capitalism’s encroachments. This paper enquires if magical realism has, in the twenty-first century, exhausted itself, reduced to an exaggerated narrative trope that caters to the perceived cultural otherness and differences of those residing outside non-metropolitan borders for the benefit of cosmopolitan audiences.


Analyzing Yamashita’s advocacy of lesser-valorized modes of communication and relationships between humans that include spiritual kinship and therapeutic touch, this paper argues that Yamashita broadens the scope of magical realism by drawing attention to modes of living that by their very simplicity and pure-heartedness appear to present a way of life that is infused with magic, but are in essence only a celebration of ethical living. This reading examines the capacities and limitations of magical realism as an innovative form of literary experimentation, capable of social and environmental change.



Magic realism, ecocriticism, Yamashita, environmental ethics, <i>Through the Arc of the Rain Forest</i>

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The Johns Hopkins University Press

ISSN: 1920-1222

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