Interfacing Diaspora with Ecological Humanities in Amitav Ghosh’s <i>The Hungry Tide</i>
The term “diaspora” is applied to an expatriate minority community whose members share certain characteristics but this concept has been a rapidly changing phenomenon in response to disparate kinds of demographic shifts, particularly during the past two decades. The increased mobility of capital and culture has made the earlier conceptualisation a problematic one. The concept needs to be recalibrated in view of the perceived challenge posed by new mobile strangers. Evidently, the movement, displacement and relocation of peoples in globalisation have increasingly accentuated the circulation of the local in the global and the new convergences have complicated the issues of citizenship and belonging.
As a polythetic term, diaspora has acquired a wide, inclusivist definition to include immigrants, expatriates, refugees, guest workers, exile community and overseas ethnic groups. In the emerging spectacle the “environmental” is increasingly embedded into the social, political and economic dimensions of displacement. This entwining is confirmed by the struggle for rights over access to natural resources and human habitats following the streams of migration, and hence the conceptual importance accorded to environment. The complex interplay of “environmental” categories such as water, land, habitat, forest, rivers with their social, political and material coordinates cannot be excluded from any disciplinary engagement with the dispersion of peoples in the “new world order.”
This article examines the perspectives on the ecological disruptions and challenges of diasporic settlement depicted by Amitav Ghosh in his novel, The Hungry Tide (2004). The novel’s essential narrative is the forcible eviction of thousands of Bengali refugees from the island of Marichjhanpi by the communist-led Left Front government of West Bengal in January-May 1979. The narrative offers a palpable ecological paradigm as well as centres on the issue of refugee migrants, and thus envisions a new form of belonging in the climatically challenged world.
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