Between Colonial Enterprises and Imperialist Dystopias. Amitav Ghosh’s The Calcutta Chromosome (1995)


  • Raffaella Malandrino



Amitav Ghosh, The Calcutta Chromosome, South Asian American, postcolonialism, global writing


Winner of the 1997 Arthur C. Clarke Award for Science Fiction, Amitav Ghosh's The Calcutta Chromosome (1995) takes place within an apartment in a near-future, wrecked New York, where Antar, an immigrant computer programmer, finds himself cyber-investigating the mysterious disappearance of a colleague in Calcutta, brought there by the compelling desire to find out the truth about the transmission of malaria in 19th-century colonial India.
Across various locations and temporalities the novel is then launched in a time-bending, overlapping post-modern narration which, through the multiple, ‘transfective’ embodiments of the malarial Plasmodium, refracts the global interconnectedness of human migrations, old and new colonialisms, and dynamics of hospitality and community formation.
As I will discuss in my study, Ghosh’s fourth novel imaginatively re-negotiates Asian American writing in a globalized framework, inaugurating the author’s creative engagement, in the following decades, with broader and more ramified transatlantic histories across Europe, Asia and the United States. With a look at its circuits of publishing, readership, and reception my reading of the novel, therefore, will investigate how the deployment of a cyberpunk avatar aesthetic integrates, contests and re-inscribes South Asian American diasporic experiences and literary representations, particularly via gendered tropes.


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