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Photographic Aesthetics and Migrant Ethics in Amitava Kumar’s "Immigrant, Montana"

Sonia Weiner

Pages 489 - 509



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This article examines the intermedial aesthetics employed by Amitava Kumar in his novel, "Immigrant, Montana" (2018), through his eclectic weaving of image and text. Kumar’s aesthetics create an ethics that contends with enduring colonial power paradigms, enacting thereby a blurring of binary distinctions. Kumar’s verbal-visual dialogue is explored by focusing in part one, “The Space between Man and Hanuman,” on photographs of monkeys reproduced within the novel, and by centering in part two, “‘The Stink of Animal Waste’: Presenting Absence,” on a photograph by Raghu Rai. The image, which occurs in ekphrasis, is analyzed through a discussion of artist Subodh Gupta’s work. The article raises questions related to identity and migration, translation and transformation, and aesthetics and ethics. Drawing on the works of Giorgio Agamben, Jacques Derrida, Jacques Rancière, and Gopal Guru, the essay explores ways in which photographs mediate the tensions between modernity and technology, animal and human, American and “other.”

Keywords: intermedial; verbal-visual configurations; ekphrasis; migration; home; identity; autofiction; Indian Anglophone novel; NASA space monkeys; Raghu Rai; Subodh Gupta

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