Document Type

Book Review

Publication Date

Summer 7-7-2023


Amitav Ghosh, a celebrated author of fiction and nonfiction, earned a doctorate in social anthropology from Oxford. In this iteration of his nonfiction oeuvre, Ghosh’s mapping of the historical entanglement of human rights abuses and environmental exploitation is framed upon the pillars of postcolonialism and posthumanism. Many of the processes he writes about in his acclaimed book The Nutmeg’s Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis overlap with the interests of Human Ecology readers. Chapters 4 “Terraforming,” 5 “We Shall be Gone Shortly,” and 6 “Bonds of Earth” may feel familiar to students of environmental histories and aficionados of Alfred Crosby and William Cronon. In these chapters Ghosh shows how colonial violence occurred in parallel fashion in the Bandas and the Americas through variations on colonizers’ erroneous terra nullius misperceptions, the egotism of human exceptionalism, anthropogenic ecological change, biological warfare, usurpation and commodification of natural resources, hijacking of local trade networks, and more.Ghosh traces the history of the trade in nutmeg and other spices from the first Dutch contact with and subsequent brutal colonization of the Banda Islands of Indonesia in the first quarter of the seventeenth century and draws illuminating parallels with the contemporary social and environmental histories of the Americas.


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