The nutmeg's curse Parables for a planet in crisis

Amitav Ghosh, 1956-

Book - 2021

"The Nutmeg's Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis frames climate change and the Anthropocene as the culmination of a history that begins with the discovery of the New World and of the sea route to the Indian Ocean. Ghosh makes the case that the political dynamics of climate change today are rooted in the centuries-old geopolitical order that was constructed by Western colonialism. This argument is set within a broader narrative about human entanglements with botanical matter-spices,... tea, sugarcane, opium, and fossil fuels-and the continuities that bind human history with these earthly materials. Ghosh also writes explicitly against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Black Lives Matter protests, and international immigration debates, among other pressing issues, framing these ongoing crises in a new way by showing how the colonialist extractive mindset is directly connected to the deep inequality we see around us today"--

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Subjects
Published
Chicago, IL : The University of Chicago Press 2021.
Language
English
Physical Description
339 pages : black and white illustrations, black and white maps ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN
9780226815459
0226815455
Main Author
Amitav Ghosh, 1956- (author)
  • A Lamp Falls
  • "Burn Everywhere Their Dwellings"
  • "The Fruits of the Nutmeg Have Died"
  • Terraforming
  • "We Shall All Be Gone Shortly"
  • Bonds of Earth
  • Monstrous Gaia
  • Fossilized Forests
  • Choke Points
  • Father of All Things
  • Vulnerabilities
  • A Fog of Numbers
  • War by Another Name
  • "The Divine Angel of Discontent"
  • Brutes
  • "The Falling Sky"
  • Utopias
  • A Vitalist Politics
  • Hidden Forces.
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Distinguished writer Ghosh, whose most recent novel is Gun Island (2019), follows his nonfiction work, The Great Derangement (2016), with this stirring call for the arts to tackle the climate crisis. In this intense, energizing, and immensely intelligent work, Ghosh uses the history of the nutmeg tree as his focal point, leading readers through the murderous conduct of the Dutch traders who captured the market for the spice by committing genocide against the people and landscape from which it came. The seventeenth-century devastation—no, the desecration—of the Banda Islands was horrific. In their quest for control of the nutmeg market, the Dutch were willing to destroy everyone and everything, even to the extent of removing nutmeg trees from the ground on which they flourished. This environmental exploitation in pursuit of capitalist gain is the crux of Ghosh's thesis. The current climate change crisis, he asserts, is the direct result of centuries of colonialism, conquest, and the most rapacious of conduct by Western nations. With literary precision, he delves into the history and culture of conquest, drawing a direct line from actions committed hundreds of years ago to the planet's current predicament. A singular achievement and a title of its time, The Nutmeg's Curse reminds us why the land is crying. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Distinguished writer Ghosh, whose most recent novel is Gun Island (2019), follows his nonfiction work, The Great Derangement (2016), with this stirring call for the arts to tackle the climate crisis. In this intense, energizing, and immensely intelligent work, Ghosh uses the history of the nutmeg tree as his focal point, leading readers through the murderous conduct of the Dutch traders who captured the market for the spice by committing genocide against the people and landscape from which it came. The seventeenth-century devastation—no, the desecration—of the Banda Islands was horrific. In their quest for control of the nutmeg market, the Dutch were willing to destroy everyone and everything, even to the extent of removing nutmeg trees from the ground on which they flourished. This environmental exploitation in pursuit of capitalist gain is the crux of Ghosh's thesis. The current climate change crisis, he asserts, is the direct result of centuries of colonialism, conquest, and the most rapacious of conduct by Western nations. With literary precision, he delves into the history and culture of conquest, drawing a direct line from actions committed hundreds of years ago to the planet's current predicament. A singular achievement and a title of its time, The Nutmeg's Curse reminds us why the land is crying. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Choice Reviews

In this blend of history, reflection, literary criticism, and reporting, Ghosh, an acclaimed novelist and essayist, tackles big topics: European overseas empire and violence, the remaking of Earth though terraforming and biopolitical warfare, subjugation of indigenous peoples, humanity's relationship to Earth, climate change, fossil fuels, and war. The premise is interesting, but for the most part, the book does not fully develop the connections or relationships among its topics. Instead, the discussion frequently jumps from topic to topic. This is not solely a history book, but, despite a lengthy bibliography, historical arguments frequently rest on a small number of sources or authors for topics about which there is considerable debate and an enormous historiography, such as the origins of capitalism or the origins of European witch burning. The opening section on Dutch colonialism and violence in the Banda Islands sets the scene, and the book includes reporting on migrants, but in other sections, the author jumps between historical time periods without fully developing points. Observations on renaming conquered territories, for example, overlook the persistence of indigenous names in those very same territories. Summing Up: Not recommended.--B. Lieberman, Fitchburg State UniversityBenjamin LiebermanFitchburg State University Benjamin Lieberman Choice Reviews 59:11 July 2022 Copyright 2022 American Library Association.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

A powerful work of history, essay, testimony and polemic traces our contemporary planetary crisis back to the discovery of the New World and the sea route to the Indian Ocean, arguing that the dynamics of climate change today are rooted in a centuries-old geopolitical order constructed by Western colonialism.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

"The Nutmeg's Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis frames climate change and the Anthropocene as the culmination of a history that begins with the discovery of the New World and of the sea route to the Indian Ocean. Ghosh makes the case that the political dynamics of climate change today are rooted in the centuries-old geopolitical order that was constructed by Western colonialism. This argument is set within a broader narrative about human entanglements with botanical matter-spices, tea, sugarcane, opium, and fossil fuels-and the continuities that bind human history with these earthly materials. Ghosh also writes explicitly against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Black Lives Matter protests, and international immigration debates, among other pressing issues, framing these ongoing crises in a new way by showing how the colonialist extractive mindset is directly connected to the deep inequality we see around us today"--

Review by Publisher Summary 3

In this ambitious successor to The Great Derangement, acclaimed writer Amitav Ghosh finds the origins of our contemporary climate crisis in Western colonialism’s violent exploitation of human life and the natural environment. A powerful work of history, essay, testimony, and polemic, Amitav Ghosh’s new book traces our contemporary planetary crisis back to the discovery of the New World and the sea route to the Indian Ocean. The Nutmeg’s Curse argues that the dynamics of climate change today are rooted in a centuries-old geopolitical order constructed by Western colonialism. At the center of Ghosh’s narrative is the now-ubiquitous spice nutmeg. The history of the nutmeg is one of conquest and exploitation—of both human life and the natural environment. In Ghosh’s hands, the story of the nutmeg becomes a parable for our environmental crisis, revealing the ways human history has always been entangled with earthly materials such as spices, tea, sugarcane, opium, and fossil fuels. Our crisis, he shows, is ultimately the result of a mechanistic view of the earth, where nature exists only as a resource for humans to use for our own ends, rather than a force of its own, full of agency and meaning. Writing against the backdrop of the global pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests, Ghosh frames these historical stories in a way that connects our shared colonial histories with the deep inequality we see around us today. By interweaving discussions on everything from the global history of the oil trade to the migrant crisis and the animist spirituality of Indigenous communities around the world, The Nutmeg’s Curse offers a sharp critique of Western society and speaks to the profoundly remarkable ways in which human history is shaped by non-human forces.