Exploring the Ethnographic Encounter
An Anthropological Approach to World Literature in Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide
Through a reading of Amitav Ghosh’s 2004 novel The Hungry Tide, the article proposes a preliminary attempt to combine anthropology with world literature, a concept that has recently attracted significant attention from the fields of postcolonial studies and comparative literature alike. Firstly, I argue that world literature is best seen as a number of overlapping and/or divergent projects, and that it thrives if tackled through a plurality of approaches. Secondly, I suggest one possible approach to world literature, employing John Comaroff’s definition of anthropology as a discipline characterised by a few closely interrelated epistemic operations that qualify ethnographic fieldwork. Lastly, I map Comaroff’s epistemic operations onto The Hungry Tide to unpack the levels of anthropological sophistication of this novel. I advocate the revised concept of ethnographic novel that results from this reading – the idea of a novel of the ethnographic encounter – as a useful point of departure for a project of world literature.