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Journal Articles Academia Letters Year : 2021

Archives of Unfair Trade in Amitav Ghosh's Fiction


In his ecocritical fiction Amitav Ghosh considers "nature not just as the stage upon which the human story is acted out, but as an actor in the drama" (Glofelty 1996, xxi). In The Glass Palace, the Irrawaddy River serves as a witness to the materialistic exploitation of colonial times when timber, ivory and precious stones were transported through the riverways to the British Empire. In The Hungry Tide, the marshy waters of the Sundarbans are alive with stories of environmental injustice where the preservation of man-eating tigers takes precedence over human life as the Indian government launched Project Tiger. In the Ibis Trilogy-The Sea of Poppies, The River of Smoke and Flood of Fire-the ocean is the lieu of maritime trade affecting politics on land, agricultural production and environmental policy making. Ghosh lays bare the colonial intent of the British in the nineteenth century monopolizing the waterways like the rivers and seas to transport Opium from the East to the West. Ghosh shows how the West's fascination for the East as seen in Orientalist's initial quest for spices ike nutmeg, cloves, pepper, coffee, cacao, sugar and tea lead eventually to the discovery of the addictive narcotic drug 'opium.' In The Glass Palace, Ghosh paints a vivid picture of how the British wipe out teak forests, convert them into timber yards for commercial purposes and wipe out unique flora and fauna. By portraying the drastic change in the landscape from rich and fertile forests of teak to that of a bare landscape without any vegetation, Ghosh archives effects of greedy colonial enterprise on nature. The rivers witness a flux of activity as British ferries transport teak and spices to the Empire. The peaceful Irrawaddy River metamorphoses into a commercial waterway. The chaungs or rushing mountain streams of Burma are transformed into teak trade winds. The teak tree assumes the status of a tree that had "felled dynasties, caused invasions, created fortunes, brought a new way of life into being" (Ghosh 2000, 71). The West's fascination for the East as evident in the Orientalist quest for spices resulted in the ensuing discovery of rubber
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hal-03915795 , version 1 (29-12-2022)





Suhasini Vincent. Archives of Unfair Trade in Amitav Ghosh's Fiction. Academia Letters, 2021, ⟨10.20935/AL1185⟩. ⟨hal-03915795⟩
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