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Anthropology, Time and Ecology in two novels of Andaman Islands

Bhattacharya, Arunima



This paper will read two novels, Shubhangi Swarup’s Latitudes of Longing (2018), and Glorious Boy (2020) by Aimee Liu, narratives set in the Andaman Islands, on the Bay of Bengal. It discusses how the novels play off the anthropological scientific documentation and interpretation of the complex socio-ecology of these islands and their indigenous forest tribes against the use of narrative time and form derived from local indigenous understanding of time and community mediated through a spiritual and generational experience of the island ecology (Christopher J Lee, Haruki Eda and Anjali Nerlekar in Stephens and San Miguel 2020). Reading the contexts of the Second world war, the Japanese occupation of the islands, and the post-independence consolidation of the Indian nation state, this paper investigates how the island communities are represented in relation to mainland India through an archipelagic politics of existence and imposed seclusion in contrast of the mainland mobility networks (Glissant 1997; Kerrigan 2011; Butcher and Elson 2017; Mealor and Schwyzer 2017; Stephens and San Miguel 2020).Aimee Liu’s Glorious Boy delves into the anthropological methods of colonial ethnography, documenting experience of a different way of life, in which the protagonist compares it to, ‘entering a time capsule’. On the other hand, Swarup’s novel Latitudes of Longing (2015) approaches the complex history of the islands by translating its political and ecological issues across the scalar differences in geological time which manifests as tsunamis and earthquakes that characterise the islands’ climate vulnerability (McGrath and Jebb 2015; Pippa Marland 2021) I will trace and interpret how the novel introduces literary and aesthetic possibilities of translating deep time and planetary history into the cultural modes through which we process crisis socially and emotionally, given that both novels are written by women (McClintock, Mufti, and Shohat’s Dangerous Liaisons 1997; and Donna J. Haraway’s concept “multi-species entanglement” (2007). Through this paper, I will explore how the novel form offers a reading of the themes of survival of oceanic indigenous life systems within the mainland oriented conceptions of sovereignty, territoriality and “progress,” that draw on imperial legacies inherent in the postcolonial nation state’s view of island ecologies.

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Conference Name The European Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies Triennial Conference 2023: Imagining Environmental Justice in a Postcolonial World
Start Date Jun 6, 2023
End Date Jun 10, 2023
Deposit Date Jul 14, 2023
Keywords archipelagic imagination; island ecology; deep time; nation; anthropology; imperial legacies