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Reading the Postcolonial Island in Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide

Keywords: Amitav Ghosh , island studies , literature , Morichjh pi , Sundarbans , The Hungry Tide

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Abstract:

This paper argues that literature has much to contribute to the theoretical work of island studies, and not just because literary texts provide evidence of the ways islands are conceptualized in different historical and cultural contexts. To this end, it discusses Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide (2004), a novel which actively theorizes key concepts in island studies. The Hungry Tide is set in the Sundarbans, an “immense archipelago” in the Ganges delta, and tells the largely forgotten history of the forced evacuation of refugees from the island of Morichjh pi in 1979. The liminal space of the Sundarbans, the “tide country”, is an extraordinary setting for a literary exploration of the relationship between postcolonial island geographies and identities. Ghosh’s depiction of the “watery labyrinth” (Ghosh, 2004: 72) and “storm-tossed islands” (Ghosh, 2004: 164) of the Sundarbans raises and addresses questions, which should be at the heart of the critical meta-discourse of island studies.

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