The Tropics has long been associated with exotic diseases and epidemics. This historical imaginary arose with Aristotle’s notion of the tropics as the ‘torrid zone’, a geographical region virtually uninhabitable to non-indigenous peoples due to the hostility of its climate; it persisted in colonial imaginaries of the tropics as pestilential latitudes requiring slave labour; and further into wars staged in tropical arenas where illness and death from diseases reduced the availability of healthy soldiers to die on the battle field. The tropical sites of colonialism and war gave rise to urgent (western) studies of tropical diseases which lead to changes in architecture and urban planning, to biopiracy of tropical plants and indigenous knowledges, and to the creation of institutes of tropical medicine.

The tropics as a region of pandemic, plague and pestilence has been challenged during the global pandemic of the novel coronavirus disease COVID-19. The new virus neither originated in the tropics, nor were the tropical countries of the world specifically or exclusively affected. Tropical countries have been impacted by, and responded to, the novel coronavirus in diverse ways. This disrupts the imaginary of pandemics, plagues, pestilence in association with the tropics, and calls for critical, nuanced, and situated analyses.

Indeed, critiques of the notion of the Tropics as wildly infectious sites of pandemic, plague and pestilence already have a long history, articulated and sustained through the arts, film, literature, history, cultural studies, ethnographies, social sciences, cultural geography and urban studies. For instance, tropical epidemics (and fear of the other) have been associated with the subtropical Gothic vampire myths of New Orleans; disease and colonialism is as much the setting of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel Love in a Time of Cholera as are the tropics of Colombia and the Caribbean sea; in Thai director, Weerasathakul’s, film Tropical Malady malarial fevers involve shamanism and shape-shifting; ethnographic studies reveal how local peoples interpret and attend to tropical illnesses; and tropical infectiousness is the germ of academic research analysing heterotopic quarantined spaces of sanatoriums constructed across the tropics.

The theme Pandemic, Plague, Pestilence and the Tropics opens to complex intertwinings involving nature and culture, humans and animals, colonialism and indigeneity, science and conspiracy, histories and futures, reality and fiction, myth and ritual, the monstrous and magnanimous.

This special issue invites a wide range of articles and creative works from researchers who live in, or engage with, the tropical and subtropical regions of the world.

eTropic: ISSN:1448-2940, free open access; indexed in Scopus, Ulrich’s, DOAJ; archived in Pandora, Sherpa/Romeo; DOIs, Crossref; Scimago Q2 ranking.  

eTropic: electronic journal of studies in the tropics publishes new research from Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences and allied fields on the variety and interrelatedness of nature, culture, and society in the tropics. Tropical regions of the world range across: the north of Australia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, tropical Africa, the Indian Ocean Islands, the Pacific, the American south and Hawai’i.


  • Submissions close 1 December 2020
  • Research article submissions should be about 6000 words
  • Literary, creative works and photographic essays about 4000 words
  • Include a 200-word abstract of the article or creative work
  • Provide a separate 100-word biographical note for each author
  • Follow APA (edition 7) style for in-text citations and reference list
  • Contributions should be submitted as a Microsoft Word file
  • Submissions must conform to the eTropic style guide. Download and follow the Style Sheet & Template: StyleSheetTemplate.docx
  • All images must be used with permission and referenced
  • Submissions should be uploaded to eTropic online journal portal (email for help)
  • Suitable papers will be double-blind peer reviewed
  • Authors are requested to browse eTropic articles to make sure they are familiar with the journal’s multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary scope and style
  • eTropic website
  • For enquiries or for pitching your ideas or abstracts, email
  • Publication dates: Issue 1, March 2021; Issue 2, September 2021

Special Issue editors: A/Prof Anita Lundberg, James Cook University, Australia; A/Prof Kalala Ngalamulume, Byrn Mawr College, USA; Dr Tanja Hammel, University of Basel, Switzerland; Prof Jean Segata, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil; A/Prof Arbaaya A Termizi, University Putra Malaysia; Dr Chrystopher Spicer, James Cook University, Australia.