Knowing (HUM415)

Here’s a post I wrote some time ago on The Calcutta Chromosome:

One of the things we could emphasize about Ghosh’s novel is its insistence on the presence of a secret history, a category of historiography (history writing) that continues to exert a gravitational pull on the public imagination. Conspiracy-thinking is a seductive activity because it seems to offer a total account of any given situation. Theories about the assassination of JFK, for example, seem to offer a final answer to the ambiguities of that event, an answer shorn of loose threads. Today the so-called Truther movement (which I understand to be a pejorative term) claims to possess hard evidence about the collapse of the World Trade Center towers which indicates that it was “an inside job.” None of this evidence has been submitted to a credible, peer-reviewed journal– usually the first step in any effort to establish the scientific veracity of a claim– but the absence of ordinary protocols such as this has not stopped a cluster of factoids, speculations and paranoid invective from going viral. Given that the US government’s inquiry into 9/11 was partial, possibly incompetent, and incontestably designed to maximize the Bush administration’s political capital, on the other hand, it’s easy to see how suspicion becomes certainty.

Still, the conspiracy theory as a genre of history— as a way of thinking about what it means to know and what the consequences of knowing might be– would be useful to consider with respect to The Calcutta Chromosome.