Shibaji Mridha is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at the American International University-Bangladesh (AIUB). He obtained his second MA in literature and writing at Kent State University, Ohio, USA. His thesis is titled “Ecocinema, Slow Violence, and Environmental Ethics: Tales of Water.” He completed an MA in English Literature and a BA in English from the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh. His areas of interest are environmental humanities, elemental ecocriticism, material ecocriticism, water studies, and postcolonialism.
The Way of Water: An Elemental-Ecocritical Reading of Selected Literary Works by Rabindranath Tagore and Amitav Ghosh
Abstract: One of the signature marks of the Anthropocene is the systemic exclusion and negligence of the agency of nonhuman beings and things. Blue ecocriticism, a recent addition to the environmental humanities, has the capacity to speak the language of elemental matters, such as water, to recognize and value the aquatic omnipresence on earth. Water has been playing a crucial role in shaping both South and Southeast Asian cultural imagination and history since time immemorial. Nonetheless, transboundary water dynamics have become convoluted since the advent of the colonial era, which positioned waterscapes as extractive resources, navigating routes, or sites of mystery. The literary works of Rabindranath Tagore and Amitav Ghosh, two renowned authors from South Asia, are informed by the narrative of water’s exploitation at the hands of privileged humans. However, they also unveil forms of resistance and hope in its boundless agency, presenting water as alive, dynamic, and metamorphosed. This paper seeks to trace the agency and materiality of aquatic presence in works like Muktadhara [Free Flow] (1922) and The Hungry Tide (2004), to explore the intertwined nexus between aquatic and human matters. Drawing on elemental ecocriticism, material ecocriticism, and contemporary water discourses, the paper points towards a water ethics that is relevant for both South and Southeast Asian ecologies in the Anthropocene, as a way to advance the politics of care and recognition espoused by blue ecocriticism throughout these interconnected regions.
Keywords: water, matter, materiality, elemental ecocriticism, blue humanities, Bengali literature