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Nonhuman Empire and Its Afterlives

February 19 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

This panel examines the various linkages between South Asia and the nonhuman. The nonhuman–whether animal, vegetal, telluric/elemental/mineral/topographical, extra-terrestrial, monstrous, or spectral—has called into question colonial and postcolonial imaginative circuits, political formations, and bodily registers, creating new forms of ethical engagement and analysis. These papers continue this important inquiry and, through a range of methods, explore how the non-human, in its questioning and surpassing of given forms, helps us to grasp as well as unravel the coordinates that structure(d) empire and its afterlives.

Parama Roy, Professor of English, UC Davis
Ezra Rashkow, Associate Professor of History, Montclair State University
Naisargi Dave, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto
Moderated by Rajbir Judge, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, IRCPL

This event is cosponsored by the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society

 is professor of English at the University of California, Davis. She is the author of Indian Traffic: Identities in Questions in Colonial and Postcolonial India (1998) and Alimentary Tracts: Appetites, Aversions, and the Postcolonial (2010) and coeditor of States of Trauma (2009). She is working on a monograph tentatively titled “Empire’s Nonhumans.”

Ezra Rashkow is a scholar of modern South Asian history, environmental history, and the history of anthropology. Much of his work engages with the experiences of indigenous peoples in modernity, and global debates over the relationship between biological and cultural diversity. In particular, the concept of “endangerment” has become a unifying strand throughout his body of work to date. His research thus explores historical discourses and policies that project biological and cultural diversity as similarly endangered, and in need of similar or simultaneous forms of conservation. Working in western and central India, he collects oral histories of Bhil, Gond, Baiga, Kurku and other adivasi communities facing conservation- and/or development-induced displacement. He then situates these oral histories in dialog with the colonial archive, anthropological accounts, and activist engagements with these communities’ histories – one goal here being to show how people’s own perceptions of their histories and life experiences contrast markedly with the meta-narratives of “endangerment” so often produced by outsiders. 

Naisargi Dave’s research concerns emergent forms of politics and relationality in contemporary urban India. Her book, Queer Activism in India: A Story in the Anthropology of Ethics (Duke 2012) explores the relationship among queer politics, activism, and affect. Her second book project, The Social Skin: Humans and Animals in India engages critically with humanism and the privileging of reason to consider myriad facets of working with and for urban and working animals in India.  Professor Dave teaches courses on animality and posthumanism, affect, ethics, anthropological theory, activism, gender and sexuality, and the anthropology of South Asia.

Rajbir Judge is a historian with affiliations in the Department of Religion and Institute of South Asia. His current project examines the ways in which Sikhism at the end of the 19th Century remained a generative site through which Sikhs and their diverse milieu in the Punjab contested not only British rule, but the very nature of sovereignty, refusing closures enacted by the colonial state. More broadly, he specializes in the cultural and intellectual history of South Asia, with a particular emphasis on the Punjab. His most recent publications can be found in the Journal of the History of Sexuality and History & Theory.


February 19
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Event Category:


IRCPL at Columbia


Heyman Center for the Humanities, Common Room
74 Morningside Drive, New York, NY 10027
New York, NY 10027 US
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