In an Antique Land--Study Questions  

Here are some study questions to think about as you read In An Antique Land. (You do not need to write out complete answers, but please have page references available and be prepared to discuss your responses):

1)  How does medieval Islamic society, as depicted in the novel, present a very different view of borders and boundaries, with cultures of "accommodation and compromise" (288), rather than ones of division and conquest?  Give examples. What comparisons/contrasts are drawn between the 12th century and the present in terms of social, economic, political, and gender relations? 

2)      What does the structure of the novel tell us about the relationship of the past (history) to the present?  What does the novel tell us about the nature of written history?  Who are the "enforcers of History" (342) and how does Ghosh's novel seek to counter their historical narratives and their "partitioning of the past" (340)?  How does this "partitioning of the past" relate to a partitioning of identities in the text?

3)      Discuss the role of the narrator as an anthropologist engaged in both fieldwork and scholarly research.  How does his character model for us non-dominating ways to engage with other cultures?  What are the tensions he confronts in his attempts at understanding and solidarity?

4)      Consider the character of Bomma "the slave" and how his role "confounds contemporary conceptions, both of servitude and of its mirrored counter-image, individual freedom" (259).  In other words, how does the novel present us with different notions of servitude, relationship, and liberation?

5)      What is the role of the West in the history and activities Ghosh describes?

6)      What does the novel tell us about the complexities of Jewish and Arab/Muslim identities in the Middle East during the 12th century and how can we compare that to the constructions of identity and nationhood today?  What examples of "hybridity" and cultural mixing do we see historically?  How have the discourses of Jewish and Arab identities and relations changed as a result of colonization, nationalism, and contemporary politics?

7)      Based on the program themes "Borders of Identity" and the "Critical Practice of Solidarity," as well as your own critical reading ofIn an Antique Land formulate your own study question to bring to the program for discussion. 


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