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Additional resources for Amitav Ghosh
However, Ghosh, whose own ideological affiliations were moulded by Nehruvian nationalism (and thus indirectly by Tagore) would gravitate towards the poet rather than the politician in his own critique of the nation-state. Thus, Ghosh’s critique of Indian nationalism does not just draw on postmodernism but also on a tradition of dissent against colonial modernity (and not just colonialism per se) that has encompassed numerous figures such as the mystic Ramakrishna Paramhansa, the Theosophists, 36 Amitav Ghosh Gandhi and Jayaprakash Narayan, as well as Tagore throughout India’s troubled modern history.
From that point, the narrative follows two interleaving trajectories; the first, is an account of his field experiences as a doctoral student in a couple of small villages in Lower Egypt in 1980, whilst the other tracks his efforts to trace the life of the ‘Slave of MS. 6’ from the archival documentation that had been preserved by the Jews of Cairo in their synagogue’s ‘Geniza’ 12 Amitav Ghosh or ‘storehouse’. In one, the narrator is an anthropologist; in the other, a historian. The narratives are connected by a series of overlapping motifs and metaphors that bring into juxtaposition two disciplines and modes of writing – ethnography and historiography – that are customarily seen as separate, each with their own concerns and modes of operation, each focusing on different ‘objects’ of knowledge.
This is braided, moreover, with that strand in Ghosh’s work which has concerned itself with the issues of scientific knowledge and its relationship to subaltern ways of thinking and being. A principal figure in The Hungry Tide is another scientist, this time a cetologist called Piyali Roy. Cetology involves the study of marine mammals, and her particular field of expertise concerns the freshwater river dolphins that are to be found in Asia’s great waterways – the Indus, the Mekong, the Irawaddy, and, of course, the Ganges.