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Exploring the Ethnographic Encounter

An Anthropological Approach to World Literature in Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide

Lucio De Capitani    Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia, Italia    



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.

Dec. 19, 2016
Oct. 4, 2016
Sept. 1, 2016

Keywords: The Hungry TideWorld LiteratureAnthropologyAmitav Ghosh

Copyright: © 2016 Lucio De Capitani. This is an open-access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction is permitted, provided that the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. The license allows for commercial use. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.