The interconnected lives of humans and elephants have shaped landscapes, determined the destinies of empires, and stimulated new kinds of knowledge, skill, and practices. Their encounters have also produced intimate forms of companionship as well as conflict over space and resources.
In South Asia, where many people live in close proximity to elephants, this interspecies relationship resonates with cultural significance. Such diverse, multifaceted, and frequently problematic relations between two kinds of intelligent social mammals have drawn the attention of multiple types of researchers and research. Interpreting this interspecies encounter, however, remains problematic, often producing disparate understandings that resist coherent integration.
Rethinking Human-Elephant Relations in South Asia seeks to remedy the problem of disciplinary commensurability by facilitating conversation across the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Bringing together anthropologists, biologists, ecologists, geographers, historians, political scientists, and Sanskrit-language specialists, this volume explores the social, historical, and ecological dimensions of human-elephant conflict and coexistence. It engages with both species as world-making subjects acting in ways that profoundly affect each other. Rethinking Human-Elephant Relations in South Asia not only helps us appreciate that we cannot understand elephant habitat and behaviour in isolation from the humans that help configure it, but also that we cannot understand human political, economic, and social life without the elephants that shape and share the world with them. Refusing to study animal ecologies and human histories as exclusive phenomena, this book argues for an integrated approach to understanding and responding to the challenges of human-elephant relations.
List of Illustrations
List of Tables
Introduction: Conflict, Coexistence, and the Challenge of Rethinking HumanElephant Relations- Piers Locke
Part One: Humans and Elephants through Time
1: The HumanElephant Relationship through the Ages: A Brief Macro-Scale History - Raman Sukumar
2: Towards a Deep History of Mahouts - Thomas R. Trautmann
3: Science of Elephants in Kau?ilyas Arthasastra - Patrick Olivelle
4: Symbolism and Power: Elephants and Gendered Authority in the Mughal World - Jane Buckingham
5: Trans-Species Colonial Fieldwork: Elephants as Instruments and Participants in Mid-Nineteenth-Century India -Julian Baker
6: The Hall of Extinct Monsters: Mammoths, Elephants, and Nature in the Palaeo-Future - Amy L. Fletcher
Part Two: Living with Elephants
7: Animals, Persons, Gods: Negotiating Ambivalent Relationships with Captive Elephants in Chitwan, Nepal - Piers Locke
8: Conduct and Collaboration in HumanElephant Working Communities of Northeast India -Nicolas Lainé
9: Cultural Values and Practical Realities in Sri Lankan HumanElephant Relations - Niclas Klixbüll
Part Three: Sharing Space with Elephants
10: Conservation and the History of HumanElephant Relations in Sri Lanka - Charles Santiapillai and S. Wijeyamohan
11: ElephantHuman Dandi : How Humans and Elephants Move through the Fringes of Forest and Village - Paul G. Keil
12: Challenges of Coexistence: HumanElephant Conflicts in Wayanad, Kerala, South India - Ursula Münster
13: Ethnic Diversity and HumanElephant Conflict in the Nilgiris, South India - Tarsh Thekaekara and Thomas F. Thornton
About the Editors and Contributors
Piers Locke teaches anthropology at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. In 2015, he was a fellow at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, Munich, Germany.
Jane Buckingham teaches history at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. She specializes in Indian history and has published on Indian colonial and post-colonial medicine and law, and on ancient Indian models of business ethics.
"The subject matter is very topical [...] This book provides a fairly comprehensive overview of the relationships and conflicts between humans and elephants in south and south-east Asia. The cultural context approach offered by some of the authors is unusual and intriguing and could be useful in informing more effective strategies for intervention by land use planners and policy-makers."
– Lisa Yon, Animal Welfare