By Anshuman A. Mondal
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Extra resources for Amitav Ghosh
Ghosh’s work thus represents Contexts and intertexts 31 a particularly interesting and complex example of the tenacious hold that humanism has had on the Indian – and especially Bengali – cultural imagination since the mid-nineteenth century vernacular ‘renaissances’, of which the Bengali variant is perhaps the most well-known. The ‘Bengal Renaissance’, as it is called, constituted the first attempt by colonised Indians to wrestle with the ideological challenges of colonial modernity and it laid the foundations for most conceptualisations of what an Indian modernity might look like.
30 In addition to historicism and individualism, and in fact triangulating between the two, was a new emphasis on ‘rationalism’ as defined by the positivist and empiricist epistemologies that had triumphed during the Enlightenment. For the intellectuals of the Bengal Renaissance, the allure of modern scientific rationality was enhanced by the ideology of science that was promoted by the colonial state, whereby science came to be seen as a sign of power, modernity and progress. If the battle for cultural parity were to be won, it would have to be through the language of Reason.
These too have charted their own specific courses in India, as we shall see, and it is Ghosh’s sympathetic but critical relationship to their Indian forms that gives his work its particular character. There are many aspects of Ghosh’s work that signal this secular and humanist orientation. Whilst one of his principal narrative topics is the drama of cultural difference, there is nevertheless an accompanying emphasis on the underlying similarity of human experience across both space and time. The divisions that fracture humanity – social, cultural, political, religious, sexual and so on – are recuperated through evocations of a transcendence that characterises humanity as a ‘whole’.
Amitav Ghosh by Anshuman A. Mondal