23 Jan
16:30 - 18:00

Public lecture Amitav Ghosh

Can the non-human speak? Other Beings in Myth, Literature and Ethnography


Lecture by Dr. Amitav Ghosh, recipient of an honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences on the 43rd Dies Natalis of Maastricht University


On the face of it, the question ‘Can the non-human speak?’ is an absurdity. Yet it is one of the most essential questions of our era of accelerating man-made climate change. At this moment in time, when we look back on the history that has brought us to the point of a planetary catastrophe, we cannot but recognize that our plight is in large part a consequence of the ways in which certain classes of humans have actively muted all other beings by representing them as brutes; that is to say, creatures whose presence on earth is solely material. This talk looks at some of the ways in which non-human consciousness figures in various narrative traditions.

Dr. Ghosh is a leading author of fiction. His novels recount historical events from a global perspective. Based on detailed archival research and extensive linguistic knowledge, Dr. Ghosh excels in bringing alive global phenomena such as the Opium Wars from the point of view of all concerned: Indian soldiers working for the British, Sri Lankan merchants, British and Dutch traders, Indian farmers forced to grow opium, and Chinese government officials, just to name a few. His most recent non-fiction work argues that to address global climate change, we need literature that helps us imagine seemingly impossible futures but that are in fact, very possible. In this public lecture Dr. Ghosh will be developing these ideas further by reflecting on how to give voice to the non-human such as plants, animals, rivers and oceans. As such, Dr. Ghosh addresses global issues, literary scholarship, linguistic research, science and technology interactions and global history, all of which are cornerstones of research and teaching at FASoS.

Dr. Ghosh was born in Calcutta and grew up in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. He studied in Delhi, Oxford and Alexandria and is the author of The Circle of Reason, The Shadow Lines, In An Antique Land, Dancing in Cambodia, The Calcutta Chromosome, The Glass Palace, The Hungry Tide, and The Ibis Trilogy, consisting of Sea of Poppies, River of Smoke and Flood of Fire. His most recent book, The Great Derangement; Climate Change and the Unthinkable, a work of non-fiction, appeared in 2016.

Full biography Amitav Ghosh

* Photo by Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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