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India Studies Program hosts novelist Amitav Ghosh on April 10

Booker Prize finalist makes first appearance in Houston at Asia Society Texas Center

Dr. Amitav Ghosh

The India Studies Program in the Department of Comparative Cultural Studies will present this month the first lecture in Houston delivered by award-winning author and distinguished scholar Dr. Amitav Ghosh.

Dr. Ghosh’s talk, “From Bombay to Canton – Traveling the Opium Route to 19th Century China,” will start at t 7 p.m., on Thursday, April 10, at the Asia Society Texas Center.

Dr. Ghosh explores Guangzhou (also known as Canton) as an Indian trader might have experienced it in the 19th century in the first two published novels of his Ibis trilogy, Sea of Poppies and River of Smoke. He is working on Flood of Fire, the final novel in the series.

The lecture will be followed by an on-stage interview conducted by award-winning poet and novelist Dr. Chitra Divakaruni, a professor of Creative Writing in the Department of English.

The event is free and open to the public.

“Amitav Ghosh’s literary work spans centuries, continents and cultures. It is said that to understand India, you must live in five centuries at once - and so you do when you read his novels. He allows you to inhabit several cultures at once,” said Dr. Lois Zamora, chair of the Department of Comparative and Cultural Studies. 

The goal of the India Studies Program is to promote teaching and scholarship focused on the history, politics, economics, languages, religion and culture of India. UH offers a minor in India studies and comparative cultural studies.

“The upcoming lecture by Dr. Ghosh is the kind of programming that speaks to the growth of the India Studies Program and its intentions to be an academic and cultural asset to UH, the city of Houston and the diasporic Indian community that enriches both the university and city,” said John W. Roberts, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. 

Dr. Ghosh was born in Calcutta and grew up in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. He earned degrees from St. Stephen’s College in Delhi and University of Delhi and was awarded a Ph.D. in social anthropology from University of Oxford in England. He has taught at the University of Delhi, Columbia and Harvard universities, as well as appointed as a Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature at Queens College, City University of New York. 

Dr. Ghosh is the author of “The Circle of Reason”, “The Shadow Lines”, “In an Antique Land”, “Dancing in Cambodia”, “The Calcutta Chromosome”, “The Glass Palace”, “The Hungry Tide”, and the first two novels in the unfinished Ibis trilogy, “Sea of Poppies” and “River of Smoke.” 

“The Circle of Reason” was awarded the Prix Médicis in 1990, and “The Shadow Lines” won two prestigious Indian prizes, the Sahitya Akademi Award and the Ananda Puraskar. His novel, “Sea of Poppies” was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2008, and awarded the Crossword Book Prize and the India Plaza Golden Quill Award. 

Dr. Ghosh’s work has been translated into more than 20 languages. His essays have been published in The New Yorker and The New Republic magazines, as well as The New York Times newspaper. He has been awarded honorary degrees by the Sorbonne, Paris, and Queens College, City University of New York.

- By Melissa Carroll

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