Amitav Ghosh’s Ibis trilogy reconstructs the nineteenth-century Opium Wars to foreground opium’s agentic materiality as both a significant historical actor and a new subject for the contemporary postcolonial novel. Following material ecocriticism’s assertion that the body functions as a porous intersection enmeshed in the material world, Ghosh’s Ibis trilogy features a series of “bodily intimacies” in which certain characters’ embodied experiences with opium directly affect their ontological, epistemological, and ethical orientations. I argue that these bodily intimacies recast opium’s historical role from one of criminalized vice to one of emergent possibility because these intimacies enable the characters to access what Ghosh has termed the “improbable,” or the possibilities beyond mere realism that the modern novel materializes. The Ibis trilogy’s engagement with the improbable thus centralizes opium’s non-human agency to demonstrate how the contemporary postcolonial novel importantly represents the inextricable entanglements between the human and more-than-human world.


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pp. 563-582
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