A Dazzling Synthesis: On Amitav Ghosh’s “The Nutmeg’s Curse”

Delia Falconer in the Sydney Review of Books:

For Ghosh, our insistence on carrying on as normal in the face of the unthinkable is the enabling madness at the centre of modernity’s addiction to extraction and consumption.  At a time in which ‘the wild has become the norm,’ and ‘freak’ events such as tornadoes are becoming more common, he wrote, we are suffering in the ‘West’ from a ‘crisis of imagination’.

American-based Ghosh—academically trained with a doctorate from Oxford in anthropology—is an eloquent synthesiser and his book, which began as a series of 2015 lectures for the University of Chicago, drew on many of the major ideas bubbling in this field. Historian Dipesh Chakrabarty was the earliest to lay out, in a ground-breaking 2009 paper, the potential of this new epoch, in which human activity has become the planet’s driving force, to also destabilise the very pillars of humanist thought, incuding the distinction between natural and human history. Philosopher Tim Morton had written about the sticky unthinkability of huge changes like global heating across time and space; while other writers, like Robert Macfarlane had described the uncanniness of our moment as once long-scale change accelerates around us. Perhaps most closely informing Ghosh’s project was the galvanising argument, put forward by philosopher Bruno Latour in 2014, that the Earth, agitated by global heating, really was speaking to us.

More here.