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"Greening" Postcolonialism and The Hungry Tide
Transcript of "Greening" Postcolonialism and The Hungry Tide
Landscape "'Whenever you have a storm like that-one that appears so suddenly out of nowhere-you know its the doing of Dokkhin Rai and his demons' I grew impatient and said 'Horen! A storm is an atmospheric disturbance. It has neither intention nor motive" (123). Animals Cross-cultural Relations "The thought of experiencing your surroundings in that way never failed to fascinate her; the idea that to 'see' was also to 'speak' to others of your kind, where simply to exist was to communicate. In contrast, there was the immeasurable distance that seperated her from Fokir. What was he thinking about...? Whatever it was, she would never know, not just because they had no language in common, but because that was how it was with human beings, who came equipped, as a species, with the means of shutting each other out. The two of them, Fokir and she, could have been boulders or trees for all they knew of each other, and wasn't it better in a way, more honest, that they could not speak? For if you compared it to the way in which dolphins' echoes mirrored the world, speech was only a bag of tricks that fooled you into believing that you could see through the eyes of another being." (132). Characters who have grown up/lived around the Sundarbans seem to have an almost fearful respect of the natural wildlife, especially the tigers, whereas Piya offends this sense of respect through making gestures or repeating the name of the tigers. Naming is necessarily a method of categorization, and thus, an imposition of human values and ethics upon potentially non-human life. Any Questions? Most generally, eco-criticism is the "study of the relationship between literature and the physical environment, usually considered from out of the current global environmental crisis and its revisionist challenge to given modes of thought and practice" (xiii Clark). Eco-criticism is an emerging sub-discipline within literary studies that utilizes a political agenda that is avowedly “green”, adopting environmentalist moral and political agendas (3 Garrard) and focuses on the relationship of the human and the non human through cultural history while considering critical analysis of the term “human”. Eco-criticism attempts to give voice to the natural world, which includes the environment, non-anthropomorphic species and all natural phenomena, similar to the postcolonial project of gaining the subaltern voice (those who are voiceless). Eco-critical analysis requires that the reader analyze the vocabulary that an author uses when describing anything that is not contained within the category of "human". By analyzing vocabulary within an eco-critical framework, analysts concern themselves with language that is anthropocentric.
Anthropocentrism is "the almost all-pervading assumption that it is only in relation to human beings that anything else has value" (2 Clark)
Eco-critics pay special attention to any language that deals with nature in an anthropocentric manner, focusing on how language is a human conception and thus, inherently anthropocentric.
An author is susceptible to anthropocentrism whenever they make use of vocabulary in describing the natural world or the non human. "Greening" Postcolonialism Eco-criticism, along with postcolonial theory, is implicitly and explicitly integrated within Amitav Ghosh's novel. Throughout the novel, the environment along with the flora and fauna of the Sundarbans region seem to be enshrouding the novel within an atmosphere of with-held destruction. In the initial description of the region, the Sundarbans are described as a region in which "every day thousands of acres of forest disappear underwater, only to reemerge hours later" (7 Ghosh). Ghosh also clearly emphasizes impending natural disaster when Nirmal, post-mortem, asks "did nobody know about the tide country's history of catastrophic cyclones? Did they think that Lusibari was the one place where history would not repeat itself?" (111) and thus built "a large ward specially equipped to withstand cyclones" (111). "They were a sanitation department and a janitorial team rolled into one: they kept the mangroves alive by removing their leaves and litter; without them the trees would choke on their own debris. Didn't they represent some fantastically large proportion of the system's biomass? Didn't they outweigh even the trees and the leaves? Hadn't someone said that intertidal forests should be named after crabs rather than mangroves since it was they-certainly not the crocodile or the tiger or the dolphin-who were the keystone species of the entire ecosystem? She had thought of these concepts-keystone species, biomass- as ideas that applied to things other than herself. To nature, in short-for who was it who said that the definition of 'nature' was that it included everything not formed by human intention? But it was not her own intention that had brought her here today; it was the crabs-because they were Fokir's livelihood and without them he would not have known to lead her to this pool. "(119). Piya, as a marine biologist, functions in a similar fashion to the imperial archivist, or orientalist. Piya essentially sets out to the Sundarbans in order to categorize and record the behavior of fauna natural to the Sundurban region, stating that "the job at hand was to record all the data that could be conjured out of this fog" (95). The lines between humans and animals are continually blurred within the novel, with the description of the settlers on page 142, the land is described as being "divided into five zones and each family of settlers had been given five acres of land" (142). In light of an eco-critical perspective, the notion of private property is nearly obsolete, with humans being a property of nature, rather than nature the property of humans. The passage describes the arrival of "Hundreds of families" as "flocking in" (142), using a verb traditionally associated with animals; this functions to fold down the binary boundaries between human and animal, allowing the two to exchange positions. "She imagined the animals circling drowsily, listening to echoes through the water, painting pictures in three dimensions-images that only they could decode" (132) Works Cited Clark, Timothy. The Cambridge Introduction to Literature and the Environment. 2011. Cambridge University Press. Print.
Garrard, Greg. Ecocriticism. 2004. Routledge. Print. Ghosh, Amitav. The Hungry Tide. 2004. Toronto: Penguin Books. Print. " this essay asks what postcolonial and ecologically oriented literary/cultural criticism might have to offer one another at a time of global environmental crises" (702)
"postcolonial criticism has effectively renewed, rather than belatedly discovered, its commitment to the environment, reiterating its insistence on the inseparability of current crises of ecological mismanagement from historical legacies of imperialistic exploitation and authoritarian abuse" (702) "My analysis, therefore, weighs the advantages of a pluralistic, 'cross-cultural ethical discourse' against the implicit arrogance of First World (neo)liberalism . . . and seeks to add ecocritical perspectives to a number of fundamental postcolonial debates" (703)
Three works: Roy's The Greater Common Good (1999), Coetzee's The Lives of Animals (1999), and Gowdy's The White Bone (1998), which "[articulate] resistance to authoritarian habits of thought and value-systems, connecting these clearly to the dominating practices of imperialist and/or neocolonialist regimes" (701) Fields of critical dialogue between ecocriticism and postcolonialism: Field 1: critiques of capitalist ideologies of development Field 2: traditional discourses of environmental representation "Both fields combine a political concern for the abuses of authority with an ethical commitment to improving the conditions of the oppressed" (720) Field 3: concerns (cross-)cultural implications of current eco-critical debates: should global ethical considerations override local cultural concerns? Field 4: Rationalism/Emotionalism dichotomy in postcolonial and ecological discourses; reason as justification for authoritarianism/romanticize encroachment on the wild Field 5: Representation of the "other" Field 6: the potential of environmental imagination to envision alternative worlds, to reinvigorate the continuing global struggle for social and ecological justice. "For all that, some form of active exchange between the critical projects of postcolonialism and ecologism now seems urgently necessary—not just as collaborative means of addressing the social and environmental problems of the present, but also of imagining alternative futures in which our current ways of looking at ourselves and our relation to the world might be creatively transformed" (721) Global/Local (Public/Private) spheres open up - Eco-criticism started out locally and became a global movement (Heise 2008)
Ecocriticism is a "predominantly white movement" (Huggan 704), and "in assuming that [First World environmentalism] protest rhetoric and palliative measures are universally applicable, [it] runs the risk of turning itself into another, late-capitalist form of 'ecological imperialism'" (702) . Gloss over the fact that Third World countries are still in an industrial stage of development.
Krishnaswamy writes, "It is clear that global power has not deserted the bastions of binary thinking" (12). What does ecocriticism stand to lose, in the context of "'reverse postcoloniality'" (13)? Human vs. Wildlife; Public vs. Private (property, like people dislocated by the Narmada Valley Project--nation/independence/progress--mostly negative impact on environment and people (Huggan 707)); Politically, Us vs. Them Huggan, Graham. "'Greening' Postcolonialism: Ecocritical Perspectives." MFS Modern Fiction Studies 50.3 (Fall 2004): 701-33. Web.
Krishnaswamy, R. "Postcolonial and Globalization Studies: Connections, Conflicts, Complicities." The Postcolonial and the Global. Krishnaswamy and Hawley, eds. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. 2008. 2-21. Web.