Storytelling and the Global Past

2 March 2012, 17:00 - 18:30

LG19, Faculty of Law, 10 West Road

A Conversation with Natalie Zemon Davis and Amitav Ghosh

Chair 

John-Paul Ghobrial (History, Churchill College)

243 

Abstract

This public lecture will bring together the prize-winning historian Natalie Zemon Davis and the celebrated novelist Amitav Ghosh to reflect on prevailing approaches to writing about the global past. Masterful storytellers in their own right, both speakers have experimented in novel, poignant, and bold ways with several of the key questions facing global historians today. In doing so, they have also embraced the productive tension at the boundaries of history and fiction. The event, therefore, is intended as much as a reflection on global history as an opportunity to consider wider issues of narrative, plausibility, and authenticity in historical writing in its myriad forms. In doing so, it will encourage the audience and participants to think together about the limits and opportunities facing historians and novelists, respectively, in their attempts to depict the global past.

About the speakers

Natalie Zemon Davis is Henry Charles Lea Professor of History emerita from Princeton University and Adjunct Professor of History and Anthropology and Senior Fellow in Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto.  Her most recent books include The Gift in Sixteenth-Century France (2000), Slaves on Screen: Film and Historical Vision (2000); Trickster Travels: A Sixteenth-Century Muslim Between Worlds (2006); and A Passion for History: Conversations with Denis Crouzet (2010). She received an honorary degree from the University of Cambridge in 1998 and in more recent years from Queen Mary, University of London, Warwick, and Oxford.  A former president of the American Historical Association and vice-president of the International Commission of Historical Sciences, she is also a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a corresponding fellow of the British Academy, and Chevalier de l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques.  In 2010, she was awarded the prestigious Ludwig Holberg International Memorial Prize. She is currently writing a book entitled Braided Histories. Set in Suriname, a first volume follows a slave family over four generations, starting with the African past; a second volume will follow a Jewish settler family over four generations.

Amitav Ghosh was born in Calcutta and grew up in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. He studied in Delhi, Oxford and Alexandria and 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 Sea of Poppies, which is the first volume of a projected series of novels, The Ibis Trilogy. The Circle of Reason was awarded France’s Prix Médicis in 1990, and The Shadow Lines won two prestigious Indian prizes the same year, the Sahitya Akademi Award and the Ananda Puraskar. The Calcutta Chromosome won the Arthur C Clarke award for 1997 and The Glass Palace won the International e-Book Award at the Frankfurt book fair in 2001. In January 2005 The Hungry Tide was awarded the Crossword Book Prize, a major Indian award. His novel, Sea of Poppies (2008), was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and was awarded the Crossword Book Prize and the IndiaPlaza Golden Quill Award. The Ibis Trilogy, of which River of Smoke (2011) is the second volume, explores the web of relationships linking several families in India, China, and Britain in the age of the Opium War.

 

Sponsors

This event has been made possible by the generosity of the Trevelyan Fund, the Faculty of History and Churchill College at the University of Cambridge.