Maritime Transmodernities and The Ibis Trilogy

Anupama Mohan


Amitav Ghosh remains an atypical member of the postcolonial club (as it
were) because of his insistent focus upon the sea (rather than land) in a number of his works as the locus for viewing/understanding the historical and cultural encounters between the West and the non-West. Indeed, where much postcolonial writing remains centred on issues of land, dispossession, and diaspora, Ghosh has shown remarkable dissidence in his interests in the sea and, in what I, adapting the Latin American philosopher Enrique Dussel, call, “maritime transmodernities” in order to launch his critique of both Eurocentrism and its equally problematic agon, critical postcolonialism.  Through a close reading of the littoral, coastal, and maritime in the three novels that comprise the Ibis Trilogy, I hope to show the ways in which Ghosh’s interest has subtly shifted from land and territorial structures for articulating and critiquing contemporary political events (The Calcutta Chromosome, 1995; The Shadow Lines, 1998) to the sea and to maritime frameworks for understanding the deeper, more genealogically complex currents of human interaction across
time and space, a move that marks such works as In An Antique Land, 1992; The Hungry Tide, 2004; and the Ibis Trilogy, 2008-15. Such a move has entailed the transformation of the postmodern novel into what I call "the transmodern novel." For such an assessment of Ghosh's corpus of writings, central is also a reading methodology that itself has a transmodern face and actualizes multiple centres of hermeneutics, enabling one to read a writer like Ghosh from/within diverse traditions. In such a light, I read Ghosh's reworking of many of the tenets of the postcolonial and the postmodern (novel) from the vantage of a specifically Bengali literary heritage.


novel; postcolonial; transmodern; maritime; oceanic

Full Text: