Khan Touseef Osman (University of Salerno)
Nation, Nature and Narrative in the Time of the Planetary Crisis: Eco-political Consciousness in Contemporary Bangladeshi Anglophone Novels
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Amitav Ghosh in his novel Gun Island (2019) and non-fiction work The Nutmeg's Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis (2021) has written about the increased trend of Bangladeshis taking perilous routes and passages to make it into Europe illegally despite their country being widely celebrated as a neoliberal economic success. The lecture begins by identifying this as the Bangladesh paradox and attempts to explore the maximized precariousness of a large section of Bangladeshi population as a result of the acceleration of capitalist modernity in recent decades. The dispersal of Bangladeshis appears to be a symptom of the planetary crisis – one whose origin Ghosh traces back to settler colonialism and its metaphysic of inertness that imagines a rift between the agentic human subject and the “brute” nature, evolving into a full-blown disaster on a planetary scale due to the unrestrained capitalist acceleration in the age of neoliberalism. In his analysis, the maximized precariousness of Bangladeshis is a consequence of the structures of colonialism being perpetuated, yet masked, by hegemonic neoliberal modernity in a world sharply divided between the Global North and South, wreaking havoc on the human and non-human inhabitants of their nation. It is this politics of invisibility that the eco-politically conscious works of the Bangladeshi-origin, multiply-rooted authors attempt to subvert through novels like Arif Anwar’s The Storm (2018), Numair Atif Choudhury’s Babu Bangladesh! (2019) and Tahmima Anam’s The Bones of Grace (2016). These novels bring to the surface the multidirectionality of violence experienced within the affective order of the everyday in such a location of the Global South as Bangladesh, but, more importantly, they deconstruct the cartesian dualism between subjectivity and objectivity, steering clear of the nature-culture binary, often through their deep ecological awareness. In my reading of these novels, nationhood in the Indian subcontinent has emerged as a consequence of the biopolitical manipulation of identities within a colonial framework and has carried the metaphysic of inertness to impossible extremes in the post-independence context. My lecture will conclude by commenting on the representational aspects of eco-politically conscious literatures rooted, at least partially, in the Global South that gesture towards an understanding of reality where the category of the uncanny is an essential constituent.
Dr. Khan Touseef Osman is a South Asian academic and researcher. He did his PhD in Literary Studies in English at the University of Kashmir. Dr. Osman also worked as a Postdoctoral Researcher in Studies in Historical Trauma and Transformation at Stellenbosch University, South Africa. He is now finishing another PhD in the area of Comparative Literary and Historical Studies at the University of Salerno, Italy. Dr. Osman has received several prestigious scholarships, such as South Asia Foundation scholarship, Andrew Mellon Foundation postdoc fellowship and the University of Salerno scholarship in its XXXV cycle. He has taught and done research at Asian University for Women (AUW) and some other universities at home and abroad.