The Anthropocene as Impasse: Optimism, cynicism, and the desire for justice in Indra Sinha’s Animal’s People




optimism, cynicism, impasse, attachment, Animal’s People, Anthropocene


This paper reads Indra Sinha’s novel Animal’s People (2007) for its representation of the impasse that develops in the wake of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy (1984) as its victims wait endlessly for justice. I examine the narrative form that the impasse takes in the novel, detailing how the stagnancy and frustration of the impasse shape the novel’s narrative movement. I track the different negotiations between optimism and cynicism that shape people’s attachment to justice in the novel’s world. The tensions and correlations between these modes of cynicism and optimism serve to trace the affective and political contours of the impasse while offering a critique of the structural impossibilities of movement. I examine how two temporalities—the suspended time of the impasse and the toxic temporality of the poisons—intersect in the novel. At the intersection between the two is the impasse of the Anthropocene.


Ahmed, S. (2010). Happy objects. In M. Gregg & G. J. Seigworth (Eds.) The affect theory reader (pp. 29-51). Duke University Press.

Auyero, J. (2012). Patients of the state: The politics of waiting in Argentina. Duke University Press.

Berlant, L. (2011). Cruel optimism. Duke University Press.

Berlant, L. (2012). Feel Tank. Counterpoints, 367, 340-343.

Bourdieu, P. (2000). Pascalian meditations. R. Nice, Trans. Stanford University Press.

Byrd, J. A. (2011). The Transit of Empire: Indigenous Critiques of Colonialism. University of Minnesota Press.

Da Costa, D. (2016). Cruel pessimism and waiting for belonging: Towards a global political economy of affect. Cultural Studies, 30(1), 1-23.

Gould, D. B. (2009). Moving politics: Emotion and ACT UP’s fight against AIDS. University of Chicago Press.

Hage, G. (2009). Waiting out the crisis: On stuckedness and governmentality. In G. Hage (Ed.), Waiting (pp. 97-106). Melbourne University Press.

Holoch, A. (2016). Profanity and the grotesque in Indra Sinha's Animal's People. Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies, 18(1), 127-142.

Impasse. (n.d.). In the Oxford English Dictionary.

LeMenager, S. (2017). Climate change and the struggle for genre. In T. Menely & J. O. Taylor (Eds.), Anthropocene reading: Literary history in geologic times (pp. 220-238). Pennsylvania University Press.

Nayar, P. K. (2017) Bhopal’s ecological gothic: Disaster, precarity, and the biopolitical uncanny. Lexington.

Ngai, S. (2007). Ugly feelings. Harvard University Press.

Ngai, S. (2013) On cruel optimism. Social text.

Nixon, R. (2011). Slow violence and the environmentalism of the poor. Harvard University Press.

Pardy, M. (2009). The shame of waiting. In G. Hage (Ed.), Waiting (pp. 195-209). Melbourne University Press.

Schwartz, B. (1974). Waiting, exchange, and power: The distribution of time in social systems. American Journal of Sociology, 79(4), 841-870.

Sinha, I. (2007). Animal’s people. Simon & Schuster.

Veldstra, C. W. (2014). Stuck in the impasse: Cynicism as neoliberal affect. [Doctoral dissertation, McMaster University]. MacSphere.




How to Cite

Pai, A. S. (2023). The Anthropocene as Impasse: Optimism, cynicism, and the desire for justice in Indra Sinha’s Animal’s People. Journal of Narrative and Language Studies, 11(21), 164–175.