Amitav Ghosh’s The Circle of Reason—Dismantling the idea of purity

Tuomas Huttunen


This article locates itself within the ethical turn that emerged in Anglo-American literary studies of the late 1990s and is still with us as a pervasive undercurrent. This turn from the examination of power  relationships in narration to the consideration of ethically wrought  relationships and solidarity across various social and discursive borders  is highly pertinent to the writing of Amitav Ghosh. The first novel by  Ghosh, The Circle of Reason (1986), examines how the deconstruction of various discursive totalities (such as sciences and histories) enables the construction of ethical connections. This reconstruction of discursive threads is exemplified through the metaphor of weaving in the novel. In this article, I argue that the novel represents the coming together of ethics and politics in its deconstruction and reassembly of the poles of modernist binaries. I also argue for the use of Spivakian ‘strategic  essentialism’ as a viable ethico-political alternative for the construction of subaltern subjectivities.

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