Dr Ashmita Khasnabish
‘Negotiating Capability: Sea of Poppies: a Diasporic Construct’.
Different location this week: Room AP3.19 in Aras an Phiarsaigh at 5pm.
The talk, based on the chapter V of Negotiating Capability and Diaspora: a Philosophical Politics, focuses on the theory of diaspora / globalization through the Indian philosopher Amartya Sen’s theory of justice which strikes at the root of oppression. Sen de-constructs that master-slave paradigm and gives us an opportunity to think in a fresh way about injustice. He owes his theory a great deal to John Rawls’s political philosophy, in which Rawls proposes that one has to inculcate communitarian identity, or the focal group, prior to developing an international community. However, Sen opposes that; a focal group, according to Sen, is parochial and he thinks that Rawls’s model, which unites everyone in the community through political justice and overlooks all the differences through the “veil of ignorance” may not work for different international groups. This chapter is an engagement and dialogue between Sen’s theory of capability and the Bengali novelist Amitav Ghosh’s vision of diaspora in the light of his novel Sea of Poppies. I see a distinct connection between the two authors as the theory of capability works as a twofold theory to uncover dis-crimination of underdogs, immigrants, and people of diaspora and to work as a positive willpower to achieve one’s goal, if one could learn to inculcate it positively. Sen boldly articulates his complaint about utilitarianism in his The Idea of Jus-tice and although it seems that it is directed toward only economics, it encompasses all kinds of discrimination when not just women are treated as second-class citizens—all the immigrants are treated as underdogs too. Sen observes, “The utilitarian calculus based on happiness or desire-fulfillment can be deeply unfair to those who are persistently deprived, since our mental make-up and desires tend to adjust to circumstances, particularly to make life bearable in adverse situations” (The Idea of Justice 282).