Amitav Ghosh: The Crisis of Imagination

Why our imaginative power falls short when thinking about climate change.

Lennart Booij

Amitav Ghosh: The Crisis of Imagination

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In the run-up to the European Elections and just after the climate summit in Katowice, we talk with renowned Indian writer Amitav Ghosh about challenges that exceed all land and continental boundaries.

The crisis we are experiencing today, according to Amitav Ghosh, goes deeper than just inequality, global warming, or the power of the populist politicians. We mainly have a imagination crisis. Our inability to grasp the global climate crisis in its totality is really the biggest crisis of our time. We simply do not seem to be able to understand that the comfortable climate we have lived in for so long can drastically change in a significant amount of time. And that is a problem, because if we cannot even imagine this future, how can we act collectively?

According to Amitav Ghosh that is exactly where writers and philosophers should step in. They must help people broaden their horizons, to create new links and to offer new perspectives. Otherwise our gaze remains too narrow and limited. But how do you make the global climate crisis, a problem where environment, politics and economy come together, more tangible? And how do you approach an individual citizen with such a large, abstract and global story?

About Amitav Ghosh

Amitav Ghosh was born in Calcutta, studied social anthropology in New Delhi and Oxford, and lives in both India, Europe and the United States.

In his books such as Sea of Poppies, The Glass Palace, and his collection of essays The Great Derangement he writes on cultural identity, (post)colonialism and climate change. His work has been translated into 25 languages and has been nominated for the Man Booker Prize. Ghosh also writes for The New Yorker, The New Republic and The New York Times.

On January 25th Dr. Amitav Ghosh will obtain an Honorary Doctorate from Maastricht University’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences on January 25, 2019. As part of this, Dr. Ghosh will be giving a public lecture on Wednesday, January 23th titled Can the non-human speak?


The climate crisis is a crisis of culture, and thus of the imagination


Amitav GhoshWriter
Lennart BooijModerator