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One Book...One Campus...One Community 2020-2021: Glossary of Terms

The Great Derangement by Amitav Ghosh

Glossary of Terms

Glossary of Common Terms

The Great Derangement by Amitav Ghosh

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Definitions of Common Terms in the Book

The Great Derangement by Amitov Ghosh

Glossary of Terms


Anthropocene: A new geological epoch characterized by the dominant impact of humans on the global environment. Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer proposed that it started at the end of the C18 with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in Britain and was characterized by rapid population increase, urbanization, increasing consumption of fossil fuels, deforestation, pollution, habitat change and global warming. Anthropocene. (2013). In I. Whyte, Environmental history and global change series: A dictionary of environmental history. I.B. Tauris.

Bourgeois: The “middle class,” capitalists, business people, professional people, those possessing and connected with private property and the educated. Ghosh connects the ascendancy of this class with the dominance of the carbon economy, and with the form of the novel in which the everyday, the predictable and the probable predominate, and from which the nonhuman, the uncanny, the improbable and the catastrophic are excluded.

Carbon Economy: Refers to a world economy (such as ours) in which carbon plays an important role in energy generation and thus functioning of the entire world. With its growth, carbon has brought about higher pollution and global warming. As a result, the world today is trying to reach a future in which the amount of carbon used (the carbon footprint) is less, a low-carbon economy. Oilgae. (n.d.). Carbon Economy - Definition, Glossary, Details – Oilgae.

Cartesian dualism: The product of a skeptical procedure of epistemological self-reflection: ‘I concluded that I was a substance, of which the whole essence or nature consists in thinking, and which, in order to exist, needs no place and depends on no material thing; so that this “I”, that is to say, the mind by which I am what I am, is entirely distinct from the body, and even easier to know than the body, and moreover, that even if the body were not, it would not cease to be all that it is’ (Discourse on Method, Discourse 4) Cartesian dualism. (2011). In B. Sandywell, Dictionary of visual discourse: a dialectical lexicon of terms. Ashgate Publishing.

Catastrophism: In geology, the doctrine that at intervals in the earth's history all living things have been destroyed by cataclysms (e.g., floods or earthquakes) and replaced by an entirely different population. During these cataclysms the features of the earth's surface, such as mountains and valleys, were formed. Catastrophism. (2018). In P. Lagasse, & Columbia University, The Columbia encyclopedia (8th ed.). Columbia University Press.

Colonialism: Describes a dominant form of cultural exploitation that developed with the expansion of Europe over the last 400 years. The term “colony” stems from the Latin word colonus meaning “a small farm” and thus originates in the practice of occupying and cultivating land. Although many earlier civilizations had colonies and although they perceived their relations with them to be one of a central imperium in relation to a periphery of provincial, marginal, and barbarian cultures, a number of crucial factors entered into the construction of the post-Renaissance practices of imperialism. Ashcroft, B. (2012). Colonialism. In G. Ritzer, Blackwell encyclopedias in social sciences: the Wiley-Blackwell encyclopedia of globalization. Wiley.

Gaia hypothesis: claims that organisms have transformed the entire Earth and maintain it in a state very different than it would have without organisms. “Gaia” is the name of an ancient Greek Earth goddess and is intended by the scientists who defend the hypothesis as an image, not referring to the Earth as a literal organism or person. Indicates that organisms do not simply live upon the Earth; evolution has not simply caused organisms to adapt to the physical conditions of the Earth. Organisms have radically transformed the Earth and have partly created the very conditions to which evolution has adapted them. Rice, S. A. (2015). Gaia hypothesis. In S. A. Rice, & Ph.D., Facts on File library of American history: Encyclopedia of evolution (2nd ed.). Facts On File.

Gradualism: The name given by historians to the strategy advocated by those socialists who argue that a socialist society can and should be achieved gradually when socialists are operating within a liberal democratic society. Gradualism. (1993). In K. McLeish (Ed.), Bloomsbury guide to human thought. Bloomsbury.

Great Acceleration: The dramatic continual and roughly simultaneous surge in growth rate across a large range of measures of human activity, first recorded in mid-20th century and continuing to this day.

Logocentrism: The belief in rational language and thought is that for something to exist, it must have presence in reality. Logocentrism describes how Western rationality is grounded in the bipolarities linked to the concept of presence versus absence to define reality: good/evil, day/night, being/nothingness, presence/absence, mind/matter, man/woman, speech/writing, and so on. Penrod, D., & PENROD, D. (2001). logocentrism. In V. E. Taylor, & C. E. Winquist (Eds.), Encyclopedia of postmodernism. Routledge.

New Animism: Emerged largely from the publications of anthropologist Irving Hallowell, produced on the basis of his ethnographic research among the Ojibwe communities of Canada in the mid-20th century. For the Ojibwe encountered by Hallowell, personhood did not require human-likeness, but rather humans were perceived as being like other persons, who for instance included rock persons and bear persons. For the Ojibwe, these persons were each wilful beings who gained meaning and power through their interactions with others; through respectfully interacting with other persons, they themselves learned to "act as a person."

Object-Oriented Ontology: Dedicated to exploring the reality, agency, and “private lives” of nonhuman (and nonliving) entities—all of which it considers "objects"—coupled with a rejection of anthropocentric ways of thinking about and acting in the world. One of the movement’s founders, American University in Cairo philosophy professor Graham Harman, defined these objects in ArtReview as “unified realities—physical or otherwise—that cannot be reduced either downwards to their pieces or upwards to their effects.” Kerr, D. (2016). What is Object-Oriented Ontology? A quick-and-dirty guide to the philosophical movement sweeping the art world. Artspace.

The Oil Encounter

Ontology: A polysemic term composed of the Greek words for ‘things’ (ta onta) and ‘discourse’ (logos): hence, the study of being or logic of existence. Ontology, taken literally, refers to any conceptual mapping or theory concerning What-there-really-is (related to epistemology in the sense that an answer to the question What-is-there? or What exists? is prior to an answer to the question What-is-there to be known?) Given the ancient desire to subsume multiplicity under the One, we would not be too far off the mark in rendering ‘ontology’ as ‘one-ology’. Ontology. (2011). In B. Sandywell, Dictionary of visual discourse: a dialectical lexicon of terms. Ashgate Publishing.

Postcolonialism: A specific historical period or state of affairs—the aftermath of imperialism—and to an intellectual and political project to reclaim and rethink the history and agency of people subordinated under various forms of European imperialism. It signals a possible future of overcoming colonialism, yet also new forms of domination or subordination that can come in the wake of such changes, including new forms of global empire. It should not be confused with the claim that the world we live in now is actually devoid of colonialism. Ivison, D. (2007). Postcolonialism. In M. Bevir, Encyclop0edia of governance. Sage Publications.

The Uncanny (Freud): The weird or eerie sensation that accompanies a perception that seems to contradict belief in scientific reality or in the laws of nature. Freud related the experience of the ‘uncanny’ to the re-arousal of ideas that had been repressed or surmounted. Thus the belief in ghosts, in magic, in animism, in the omnipotence of thoughts, or in the repressed ideas connected with the Oedipus complex may arouse uncanny feelings when revived. He notes that in German, the words for what is homely and familiar, and for what is uncanny and unfamiliar converge so that eventually what is uncanny is something that is familiar. It is the return of the repressed. Bernstein, J. A. (2006). Uncanny. In R. Skelton, The Edinburgh international encyclopedia of psychoanalysis. Edinburgh University Press.

The Uncanny (Heidegger): In German philosopher Martin Heidegger’s Being & Time (1927), the feeling of the uncanny (unheimlich), or not-being-at-home, arises from undergoing the fundamental mood of anxiety. According to Heidegger, anxiety disrupts the significance of our everyday familiarity and absorption in the world, hindering our ability to engage in our surroundings in any meaningful way (BT 233). In other words, by making the familiar unfamiliar, anxiety leaves us face to face with an alien world that is no longer enticing nor makes sense in the way it did prior.  Despite the negative connotations, experiencing anxiety can uncannily bring to the foreground the social, material, and environmental conditions we take for granted yet depend upon, which in normal operation withdraw to the background unnoticed. Compare with Amitav Ghosh’s concept of recognition. Heidegger, M., MacQuarrie, J., and Robinson, E.S. (1962). Being and Time. Harper.



Arabian Sea: Northwestern branch of the Indian Ocean, covering 3,859,000 sq km/1,489,970 sq mi, with India to the east, Pakistan and Iran to the north, and the Arabian Peninsula and Somalia to the west. It is linked with the Red Sea via the Gulf of Aden, and with the Gulf via the Gulf of Oman. Its mean depth is 2,730 m/8,956 ft. The chief river flowing into the Arabian Sea is the Indus, which is linked with a large submarine canyon in the continental shelf. The sea is rich in fish. Arabian Sea. (2018). In Helicon (Ed.), The Hutchinson unabridged encyclopedia with atlas and weather guide. Helicon.

Bengal: Region, 77,442 sq mi (200,575 sq km), E India and Bangladesh, on the Bay of Bengal. The inland section is mountainous, with peaks up to 12,000 ft (3,660 m) high in the northwest, but most of Bengal is the fertile land of the Ganges-Brahmaputra alluvial plains and delta. Along the coast are richly timbered jungles, swamps, and islands. The heavy monsoon rainfall and predominantly warm weather make possible two harvests a year. The population, which speaks mainly Bengali, is ethnically quite homogeneous but is almost equally divided between Muslims and Hindus. Bengal. (2018). In P. Lagasse, & Columbia University, The Columbia encyclopedia (8th ed.). Columbia University Press.

Dehli: Union territory and city, N central India. The union territory, officially the National Capital Territory of Delhi (2001 provisional pop. 13,782,976), 573 sq mi (1,484 sq km), is on the Delhi plain, which is crossed by the Yamuna River and stretches between the Aravalli Hills on the south and the Shiwalik Range on the north, connecting the alluvial valleys of the Indus and Ganges river systems. A hot and arid region, with temperatures rising above 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius) in the summer, it has extensive irrigation works to support agriculture. Hindi and Urdu are spoken by more than 90% of the population. New Delhi, the capital of India, and Delhi are the chief urban centers. It is governed by a chief minister and cabinet responsible to an elected unicameral legislature and by a governor appointed by the president of India. Delhi. (2018). In P. Lagasse, & Columbia University, The Columbia encyclopedia (8th ed.). Columbia University Press.

Indian Ocean: Third largest ocean, c.28,350,000 sq mi (73,427,000 sq km), extending from S Asia to Antarctica and from E Africa to SE Australia; it is c.4,000 mi (6,400 km) wide at the equator. It constitutes about 20% of the world's total ocean area. The Indian Ocean is connected with the Pacific Ocean by passages through the Malay Archipelago and between Australia and Antarctica; and with the Atlantic Ocean by the expanse between Africa and Antarctica and by the Suez Canal. Indian Ocean. (2018). In P. Lagasse, & Columbia University, The Columbia encyclopedia (8th ed.). Columbia University Press.

Kolkata: Capital of West Bengal state in India, on the River Hooghly, the westernmost mouth of the River Ganges, some 130 km/80 mi north of the Bay of Bengal; population (2001 est) 4,580,500; metropolitan area (2001 est) 13,216,500. It is chiefly a commercial and industrial centre, its industries including engineering, shipbuilding, jute and other textiles, chemicals, beverages, and tobacco. There is considerable unemployment, and industries have declined since political separation from East Bengal (later part of Bangladesh) in 1947, which reduced access to raw materials and markets as well as the growth of competitive industries. The whole of the metropolitan area is densely populated, especially along the banks of the Hooghly in ‘bustees’ of makeshift housing, and there is severe air pollution. It was the seat of government of British India 1773–1912. Kolkata. (2018). In Helicon (Ed.), The Hutchinson unabridged encyclopedia with atlas and weather guide. Helicon.

Mrauk U: Archaeological site and capital of the former Arakan kingdom, Rakhine State, central W Myanmar. The kingdom flourished in the 15th to 18th cent., and Mrauk U was an important trading city, with ties to India, Persia, Arabia, Portugal, and the Netherlands. Mrauk U. (2018). In P. Lagasse, & Columbia University, The Columbia encyclopedia (8th ed.). Columbia University Press.

Mumbai: Indian city, industrial port, and commercial centre; population (2001 est) 11,914,400; metropolitan area (2001 est) 16,368,100. Previously known as Bombay, the city was once the capital of Bombay Presidency and Bombay State and in 1960 became the capital of Maharashtra, a newly created state. By a decision of the Maharashtra government implemented in 1995, the city was renamed Mumbai. Long-established industries include textiles (especially cotton), engineering, pharmaceuticals, and diamonds. The city is the centre of the Hindi film industry, and the newer industries also include chemicals, motor vehicles, electronics, and papermaking. Mumbai. (2018). In Helicon (Ed.), The Hutchinson unabridged encyclopedia with atlas and weather guide. Helicon.

Sundarbans: Large, heavily forested swamp region, c.3,860 sq mi (10,000 sq km), in the S Ganges delta on the Bay of Bengal, about 60% in SW Bangladesh and the rest in West Bengal state, India. The more than 100 low, marshy islands and many tidal rivers and creeks of the Sundarbans are home to the world's largest mangrove forest, which is inhabited by a wide variety of animal life including tigers, water buffalo, crocodiles, pythons, and many species of birds and aquatic life. Rice is grown, mainly in the east, and coconut palms in the west; the main trade center is Khulna in Bangladesh. By the early years of the 21st cent. extensive tree-felling had destroyed more than half of the mangrove forest in the Indian Sundarbans, and the region's islands were in ecological peril from rising sea levels and widespread erosion. Over three decades some 31 sq mi (90 sq km) of land has been lost (several islands completely disappeared), and many island inhabitants displaced. Sundarbans. (2018). In P. Lagasse, & Columbia University, The Columbia encyclopedia (8th ed.). Columbia University Press.

Tambora: Volcano, Sumbawa island, Indonesia. After being dormant for around 5,000 years an eruption 5-11 April 1815 caused the formation of a caldera 1,100 m deep and 7 km across. This was the most spectacular eruption of the last 15,000 years. The explosion blew 1,300 m off the top of the volcano. 150 km3 of ash was erupted (150 times that produced in the eruption of Mount St Helens), falling over 1,250 km away. The eruption column reached a height of 44 km and c.92,000 people were killed in the eruption and from the famine that followed. About 22 million t of SO2 were ejected into the stratosphere causing a drop in mean global temperatures of around 3°C. 1816 in Europe and N America was known as the “year without a summer” (Post 1977, Self et al. 1989, Stothers 1984). Tambora. (2013). In I. Whyte, Environmental history and global change series: A dictionary of environmental history. I.B. Tauris.


Chakrabarty, Dipesh: Indian historian, who has also made contributions to postcolonial theory and subaltern studies. He is the Lawrence A. Kimpton Distinguished Service Professor in history at the University of Chicago, and is the recipient of the 2014 Toynbee Prize, named for Professor Arnold J. Toynbee, that recognizes social scientists for significant academic and public contributions to humanity.

Chatterjee, Bankim Chandra: Indian novelist. Chatterjee was educated in Calcutta (now Kolkata) and served as a deputy magistrate in civil service for many years. His first notable Bengali work was Daughter of the Lord of the Fort (1865). His epoch-making newspaper, Bangadarsan, serialized some of his later works. Though his novels were considered structurally faulty, his contemporaries saw him as a prophet, and his valiant Hindu heroes aroused great pride and patriotism. He helped create the Indian school of fiction and established Bengali prose as a literary language. Chatterjee is considered the greatest Bengali novelist. Chatterjee, Bankim Chandra. (2017). In Encyclopaedia Britannica, Britannica concise encyclopedia. Britannica Digital Learning.

Flaubert, Gustave: French writer. One of the major novelists of the 19th century, he was the author of Madame Bovary (1857), Salammbô (1862), L'Education sentimentale/Sentimental Education (1869), and La Tentation de Saint Antoine/The Temptation of St Anthony (1874). Flaubert also wrote the short stories Trois Contes/Three Tales (1877). His dedication to art resulted in a meticulous prose style, realistic detail, and psychological depth, which is often revealed through interior monologue. Flaubert, Gustave. (2018). In Helicon (Ed.), The Hutchinson unabridged encyclopedia with atlas and weather guide. Helicon.

Gould, Stephen Jay: US palaeontologist and writer who taught and researches in geology, evolutionary biology, and the history of science. Gould wrote extensively on several aspects of evolutionary science, in both professional and popular books. His early research interests were focused on the evolutionary development and speciation of the land snail, and initiated his wider studies of animal form and function and the relationship between ontogeny and phylogeny. Gould, Stephen Jay (1941-2002). (2018). In Helicon (Ed.), The Hutchinson dictionary of scientific biography. Helicon.

Klein, Naomi: Canadian author, social activist, and filmmaker known for her political analyses and criticism of corporate globalization and of capitalism. On a three-year appointment from September 2018, she is the Gloria Steinem Chair in Media, Culture, and Feminist Studies at Rutgers University.

Kohn, Eduardo: Associate Professor of Anthropology at McGill University and winner of the 2014 Gregory Bateson Prize. He is best known for the book, How Forests Think.

Latour, Bruno: Leading figure in the philosophy, sociology, and anthropology of science referred to collectively as “science studies” or “science and technology studies” (STS). He has played an important role in developing the method of sociological analysis called “actor-network theory” (ANT). In We Have Never Been Modern (1993 [1991]), Latour examines the modern intellectual constitution that gives rise to the sharp distinction between nature and culture characteristic of the science wars. Freed, M. M., & FREED, M. M. (2011). Latour, Bruno. In M. Ryan (Ed.), The encyclopedia of literary and cultural theory. Wiley.

Marshall, George: British environmental campaigner, communications specialist and writer. He is the founder of Climate Outreach and is a specialist in climate change communications. He is the author of Carbon Detox (2007) and Don't Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change (2014). He lives in mid-Wales.

McKibben, Bill: American environmentalist, author, and journalist who has written extensively on the impact of global warming. He is the Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College and leader of the climate campaign group He has authored a dozen books about the environment, including his first, The End of Nature (1989), about climate change.

Moretti, Franco: Literary comparativist and theoretician whose roots in Marxist theory lend his work a sociological and historical orientation, while his innovatory methodology is increasingly global in its data-based range of application and claims. “Global formalism” may best describe it. Fothergill, A., & FOTHERGILL, A. (2011). Moretti, Franco. In M. Ryan (Ed.), The encyclopedia of literary and cultural theory. Wiley.

Updike, John: Novelist, a transcriber of the individual consciousness in contemporary culture as well as history. His protagonists constantly confront in dramatic and explicit ways the topology and emotions of adulterous sexuality – but at the same time are drawn to a dialectical religiosity influenced by the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard and the Protestant theologian Karl Barth. Writing until his death at the age of 76, Updike was a former New Yorker staffer who began his literary career with a short story in the early 1950s and continued to produce works in nearly all genres, though focusing on fiction. His oeuvre includes more than 20 novels, 12 collections of short stories, six books of poetry, a memoir, anthologies of prose essays, and a book on golf. Price, J. L. (2011). Updike, John. In B. W. Shaffer, P. O'Donnell, D. W. Madden, & et. al., Wiley-Blackwell encyclopedia of literature: the encyclopedia of twentieth-century fiction. Wiley.



2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami: also known as the Boxing Day Tsunami and, by the scientific community, the Sumatra–Andaman earthquake, occurred at 07:58:53 in local time (UTC+7) on 26 December, with an epicenter off the west coast of northern Sumatra, Indonesia. It was an undersea megathrust earthquake that registered a magnitude of 9.1–9.3 Mw, reaching a Mercalli intensity up to IX in certain areas. The earthquake was caused by a rupture along the fault between the Burma Plate and the Indian Plate. A series of massive tsunami waves grew up to 30 m (100 ft) high once heading inland, after being created by the underwater seismic activity offshore. Communities along the surrounding coasts of the Indian Ocean were severely affected, and the tsunamis killed an estimated 227,898 people in 14 countries, making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. The direct results caused major disruptions to living conditions and commerce in coastal provinces of surrounded countries, including Aceh, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Tamil Nadu, India and Khao Lak, Thailand. Banda Aceh reported the largest number of deaths. The earthquake was the third-largest ever recorded and had the longest duration of faulting ever observed; between eight and ten minutes. It caused the planet to vibrate as much as 10 mm (0.4 in), and also remotely triggered earthquakes as far away as Alaska. Its epicenter was between Simeulue and mainland Sumatra. The plight of the affected people and countries prompted a worldwide humanitarian response, with donations totaling more than US$14 billion.

Hurricane Sandy: (unofficially referred to as Superstorm Sandy) was the deadliest and most destructive, as well as the strongest, hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season. Inflicting nearly $70 billion (2012 USD) in damage, it was the second-costliest hurricane on record in the United States until surpassed by Hurricanes Harvey and Maria in 2017. The eighteenth named storm, tenth hurricane, and second major hurricane of the year, Sandy was a Category 3 storm at its peak intensity when it made landfall in Cuba. While it was a Category 2 hurricane off the coast of the Northeastern United States, the storm became the largest Atlantic hurricane on record (as measured by diameter, with tropical-storm-force winds spanning 900 miles (1,400 km)). At least 233 people were killed along the path of the storm in eight countries.

Little Ice Age: Occurring after the Medieval Warm Period, the LIA occurred within the period between ad 1500s and 1800s, with duration and extent varying globally. While glaciers in some parts of the world extended at this time (e.g. Harrison et al., 2014), it was no true “ice age”. In Europe, winters became colder, snowfall was higher and, consequently, the growing season and crop production declined, and has been linked to periods of famine. Environmental records from, for example, Patagonia, New Zealand and Malawi suggest that the LIA also impacted in the southern hemisphere. Attribution is unclear, with various analyses suggesting changes in solar output, volcanic activity, ocean circulation or orbital forcing as the primary cause, or even an increase in forested areas leading to atmospheric carbon draw-down. Thomas, D. S. (2016). Little ice age (LIA). In D. S. G. Thomas, & Goudie Andrew (Eds.), The dictionary of physical geography (4th ed.). Blackwell Publishers.