Postcolonial Nonhuman Blurring (B)orders in Migrant Ecologies: A Postanthropocentric Reading of Amitav Ghosh’s "Gun Island"


  • Ashwarya Samkaria Independent Researcher



transcorporeality, myth, migrant ecologies, nonhuman agency, postanthropocentric


Amitav Ghosh’s novel Gun Island (2019) explores the intersection of the nonhuman with 21st century issues pertaining to racial and ecological injustice, ethnic cleansing, environmental catastrophe and migrant ecologies by way of allegorising the myth of Manasa Devi (goddess of snakes and other venomous creatures). A postcolonial ecocritical lens helps analyse how the novelist presents nonhuman actors to contest Western anthropocentric conceptualisations of human subjectivity shaped by historical forces of modernity. By positing a postanthropocentric way of reading the world in order to shape new human subjectivities which do not efface human-nonhuman entanglements, my paper studies how Ghosh recognises agentic capacities and storied matter of the postcolonial nonhuman subject matter by identifying the novel’s subversive negotiations through the tropes of language, embodiment, genre, and everyday environmentalism. I analyse how the contextualisation of the postcolonial nonhuman not only critiques human exceptionalism but destabilises the constructedness of borders in terms of an immaterial myth projecting an otherworldly possibility, trans-corporeality positing inescapable interconnectedness between humans and all living and non-living matter, and everyday environmentalism broadening the definition of environment to contest nature-culture dualism. I also argue that this ecofiction’s allegorisation of Manasa Devi’s myth through the unseen boundaries that she seeks to retain problematise a simplistic understanding of borders as limiting. My paper thus analyses how this reconceptualisation through the postcolonial nonhuman blurs borders and their ordering of the world and posits, instead, a relational living that dismantles constructedness of hierarchies while paying heed to (b)orders for ecological sustainable living.



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Author Biography

Ashwarya Samkaria, Independent Researcher

Ashwarya Samkaria, currently working as an independent researcher has a Masters in English Literature from the University of Delhi (India) and in Performance Studies from Dr. B. R. Ambedkar University Delhi (India). Her research interests are ecocriticism, performance studies, postcolonial literatures, and creative writing. Her ecofiction has been published by EcoCast, official podcast of the ‘Association of the Study of Literature and Environment’ (ASLE), Benelux Association for the Study of Art, Culture, and the Environment (BASCE), and Samyukta Fiction. Her book chapters on ecocriticism in Indian fiction have been published in edited collections such as Reading Contemporary South Asian Literature: A Postcolonial-Ecocritical Approach (Ukiyoto Publishing) and Postcolonial Literature: Selected Essays on Past, Present and Future Trends (Adhyayan Publishers). Her article on body and performance has been published in the recent issue of Performance Research (Taylor & Francis). She has also been trained in the (neo)classical dance form ‘Odissi’ and has performed abroad and extensively in India.






Articles: The Postcolonial Nonhuman