Amitav Ghosh - how climate crisis, colonialism and migration are connected

Amitav Ghosh © Mathieu Génon
Amitav Ghosh © Mathieu Génon

Indian author Amitav Ghosh’s bestsellers open up a new view of the world by linking colonial history(s) with current issues of migration, global inequality and the worldwide climate crisis. The Institute for Social Anthropology invites the award-winning intellectual to this year’s "Anthropology Talks" in Bern. In a public reading at the Stadttheater Bern, Ghosh will enter into conversation with research, culture and civil society.

Amitav Ghosh grew up in India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka and received his doctorate in social anthropology from Oxford. Since the 1980s, Ghosh has literarily explored the colonial history of his native Bengal, the partition of India, Indian Ocean trade, and the colonial history of Asia. His novels and nonfiction have won numerous international awards.

Important voice of ecological change

For a good ten years, Ghosh has been linking his research on colonial history to the climate crisis, becoming one of the most important global voices arguing for radical change in the way we treat our planet. With his non-fiction book ’The Great Derangement’, Amitav Ghosh has at once co-founded and fundamentally critiqued the genre of so-called ’climate fiction’. He repeatedly draws attention to the fact that in the literary canon nature appears primarily as a passive background. According to Ghosh, a new relationship to our ’fellow world’ is necessary in order to find a way out of the planetary crisis of mankind beyond technological solutions.

Simultaneously with Ghosh’s appearance in Bern, the German translation of his latest non-fiction book ’Der Fluch der Muskatnuss. Parable of a World in Crisis’. In it, Ghosh takes readers on a journey through history around the world, pointing to alternative human-nature relationships, such as among the First Nations of North America.

Reading and Discussion with Amitav Ghosh at the Stadttheater Bern

’The goal of this year’s Anthropology Talks is to initiate a broad-based exchange. To this end, we are collaborating with the Stadttheater Bern and inviting voices from other academic disciplines as well as from culture and civil society,’ says Michaela Schäuble, professor of social anthropology with a focus on media anthropology and director at the Institute of Social Anthropology at the University of Bern. ’We have designed the event with Amitav Ghosh to be interesting and accessible to a broad public.’ First, Ghosh will present thoughts from his book ’The Curse of Nutmeg’ at the Stadttheater Bern under the title ’Imagining Worlds.’ Here, too, he is concerned with a critical examination of European colonial history and the construction of a new relationship to the surrounding or ’fellow world’.

Afterwards, Izabel Barros (historian, University of Lausanne), Darcy Alexandra (social anthropologist, poet and filmmaker, University of Bern), Charles Heller (migration researcher and filmmaker, Border Forensics) and Jyothy Karat (photojournalist and anthropology student, University of Bern), four voices from different disciplines and with transnational biographies are invited to discuss their perspectives, concerns and questions with Amitav Ghosh. Michaela Schäuble: ’For a brief moment, the Bern audience will also be on the Banda Islands in Indonesia, in the desert on the US-Mexican border, in an elephant reserve in Kerala, in a Brazilian quilombo, or in a refugee camp on Lampedusa.’

The event will be held in German and English. There will be a dubbed translation. Admission is free.