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Humanities 2016, 5(3), 64;

Ethical Universals in Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies: A Posthumanist Critique of Universal Human Rights

Department of Literatures, Cultures & Languages, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06269, USA
Academic Editor: Myra Mendible
Received: 1 June 2016 / Revised: 19 July 2016 / Accepted: 26 July 2016 / Published: 29 July 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Race, Politics, and the Humanities in an Age of 'Posts')
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The debate on universality in current human rights scholarship has been overly limited. Commonly, the idea is either dismissed as Eurocentric or it is compared to a global political consensus. I evoke certain alternate and underexplored views on the topic from literary and culture studies. Scholars like Kwame Appiah, Patrick Hogan and Seyla Benhabib have articulated principles that include patterns of non-coercive ethical thinking emergent across diverse cultures, particularly the way minority cultures ethically respond to oppression. I argue that human rights practices may be fruitfully guided by the way minority cultures around the world evoke ethical universals to challenge violations. To develop this, I consider Amitav Ghosh’s novel Sea of Poppies that treats the issue of colonialism in South Asia during the 19th century. Ghosh foreshadows the arrival of human rights in two ways. He shows that a conception human rights has origins in Western colonialism, precisely in the colonial idea of civilizing mission. But more importantly, he demonstrates that ethical universals allow colonized characters in the novel to form cross-cultural solidarities that subvert colonialism through conceptions of universal human rights. This understanding of universality is largely missing in current human rights scholarship, with consequences that extend well beyond Ghosh’s novel. View Full-Text
Keywords: universalities; posthumanist; postcolonial; humanism; minoratarian; human rights universalities; posthumanist; postcolonial; humanism; minoratarian; human rights
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Dutta Roy, A. Ethical Universals in Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies: A Posthumanist Critique of Universal Human Rights. Humanities 2016, 5, 64.

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