Chapter 11 The Adam Smith Problem in the Ibis Trilogy

Self-Interest, Empathy, and Hermeneutic Irony

In: Amitav Ghosh’s Culture Chromosome
Author: Sneharika Roy

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Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations (1776) is the central locus of ideological conflict in the Ibis trilogy, but its role has received no sustained scholarly attention. Amitav Ghosh writes against the doctrine of free trade as envisaged by colonialists, but not against trade itself. This essay argues that the Ibis trilogy offers a critique not of Smith’s ideas, which the author may even share, but of their colonial distortions through a transcultural, humanist expansion of their scope. In a neat epistemological reversal, Ghosh’s fiction recovers the original Smith to counter the misappropriated Smith of the colonial fictions that reduce his political economy to the invisible hand.

Amitav Ghosh’s Culture Chromosome

Anthropology, Epistemology, Ethics, Space