The Toxic Legacies of Colonialism: A Postcolonial Environmental Reading of The Miraculous True History of Nomi Ali

Munazza Yaqoob


Uzma Aslam Khan’s latest novel The Miraculous True History of Nomi Ali (2019), presents an extraordinary tale of human brutality, human suffering, and environmental degradation, exploring the deep-rooted and multi-layered connections between colonialism and neo- colonialism. The novel whilst still remaining grounded in the geography, culture, politics and environmental specifications of the region, carries out a historical investigation of the British and Japanese colonial control of Andaman Island to draw our attention to devastating impacts of colonialism and neo-colonial capitalist development models on the environment within contemporary postcolonial societies (e.g., South Asia). Thus, Khan builds up a highly necessary alliance between postcolonialism and ecoriticism, tracing the roots of environmental degradation within both the colonial and neo-colonial oppressive regimes that dominate humans as species– who, indeed, cannot be separated from their links with the trillions of other life forms within the larger biosphere. It is with this in mind that the text navigates the environmental problems that are also major concerns in the postcolonial societies, including: Anthropocene, climate change, humans’ and other species’ migration and genocide, the erasure of indigenous culture, and the exploitation of natural resources–all of which are rooted in the oppressive regimes of the colonisation of the Andaman Islands. Via my socioecological critique, which aims to explore the novel in the context of it as a powerful resistance text challenging anthropocentrism (which has been exercised in the form of imperial control of the Andaman islands, whereby colonial powers dematerialize nature, displace indigenous inhabitants, and, thus, disrupt the harmony of the biosphere), I attempt to foreground the socioecological potential of the novel. Furthermore, I also aim to analyse the disturbances within the characters’ lives–not to mention the degradation of the environment of their land–in order to highlight our main criticism of imperialism, colonisation, and their ‘legacies’ of environmental hazards within the region. Indeed, The Miraculous True History of Nomi Ali, my paper argues, opposes the paradigms of ‘disassociated thinking’ and supports an integrated vision of the world, thus forming a meaningful contribution to the contemporary theories of climate change and the Anthropocene, as well as to related environmental problems.

Keywords: Colonial toxic legacies; climate change; anthropocene, postcolonial ecocriticism; south Asian environment.

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