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Amitav Ghosh and the Art of Thick Description: History in the Ibis Trilogy

Frost, Mark R (2016) 'Amitav Ghosh and the Art of Thick Description: History in the Ibis Trilogy.' American Historical Review, 121 (5). pp. 1537-1544. ISSN 0002-8762

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This response to Amitav Ghosh’s Ibis Trilogy examines the scholarly merits of these novels as works of microhistory, in which the author’s devotion to what we might term “thick description” (following the anthropologist Clifford Geertz) produces numerous fresh understandings. It argues that the standout features of these novels are Ghosh’s re-creations of historical spaces and historical languages, both of which provide invaluable insights for scholars and students, who rarely have the available time and resources to recover the same degree of microscopic detail. In addition, this essay addresses Ghosh’s credentials as a historian who tackles broader historiographical concerns by comparing his depiction of the British imperial trades in indentured labor and opium with the arguments made by certain revisionist historians. It suggests that one weakness of Ghosh’s first installment in the Ibis Trilogy is his failure to read Victorian primary sources with a sufficiently critical eye. However, it concludes that overall Ghosh remains a historiographical torchbearer who over much of his career has explored the past connections and convergences of the Indian Ocean world well ahead of the academic curve.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Indian Ocean history, microhistory, opium, indenture, historical fiction
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DS Asia
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > History, Department of
Faculty of Humanities
SWORD Depositor: Elements
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 07 Nov 2016 10:49
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2022 14:40

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