Imaginary Pasts: Colonisation, Migration and Loss in J.G. Farrell’s 'The Singapore Grip' and in Amitav Ghosh’s 'The Glass Palace'

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Prusse, Michael C.
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A quotation from each of the two novels that form the background for this paper will immediately establish why these narratives are pertinent to the central theme of the ‘Moving Cultures, Shifting Identities Conference’ that took place at Flinders University in Adelaide early in December 2007. In both texts the theme of migration in the context of imperialism plays a central role and, moreover, both clearly spell out what tremendous impact moving between and across cultures has on the lives of people, who are thoroughly affected and marked by such encounters. Matthew Webb, one of the protagonists of J.G. Farrell’s The Singapore Grip (1978), renders his perception of the phenomenon of migration in the wake of imperial expansion as follows: ‘One of the most astounding things about our Empire … is the way we’ve transported vast populations across the globe as cheap labour’. Matthew, a critical observer of British imperialism but still a member of colonial society and a British citizen, thus provides the reader with an insight regarding the economic motivation behind such enforced movements of people.
Amitav Ghosh, 'The Singapore Grip', J.G. Farrell, 'The Glass Palace', Migration, Imperialism