Amitav Ghosh uses the trajectory of nutmeg to chart European violence against the earth.
Speaking on ‘Stories of the more-than-human’ at MBIFL on Thursday, he pointed out that in all civilizations, there was a story of a tree of life.
"Empirical documentation methods of conventional history cannot portray trees as makers of history,” he added.
For Bandanese, trees and volcanoes were the protagonists of their stories. But for the Dutch, they were nothing but resources generating profit. In the colonial period, all other beings except Europeans were regarded as
brutish, mute and devoid of agency. "Though humans are not devoid of agencies today, for historians and academicians non-human entities are mute and incapable agencies. Inthat sense, their way of enframing the world is still very much founded on the ideologies in the wake of the European empire in the 17th century,” he says
Going back to the 15th century, cloves only grew on the islands of North Maluku. Similarly, the volcanoes of Banda islands created incredibly rich forests with nutmeg trees endemic to those islands only. A handful of nutmeg had an astronomical price in Europe. Europeans reached the Banda Islands. The Dutch had a monopoly over the nutmeg trade. The Bandanese resisted the Dutch as they had a long relationship with trade all over the world. In 1621, within 10 weeks, the Dutch exterminated the entire population of the Banda islands.
"The incredible resource Bandanese had became the cause of their destruction. This is happening all over the world,” says Amitav Ghosh.
Uranium mines of Jharkhand exploited by mining companies and Adivasis being thrown out of Niyamgiri mountains in Odisha are examples of the extractivist economy practised by the world.
“The potential of biological organisms is revealed when they encounter other species. These accidental encounters are historical. The Enlightenment of Buddha while meditating under the Bodhi tree is one such encounter,” he said.