Living and Working with Giants proposes a multispecies ethnography of human-elephant working relationships in Northeast India, in the local context of the Khamti population. Based on extended research fieldwork, it analyses not only people's action but also animal involvement in establishing and maintaining trusting relationships at the workplace. Thanks to Nicolas Lainé rich descriptions, the reader can follow the capture of a juvenile forest elephant, and understand its transformation into a village elephant as a reciprocal process. Both cognitive capacities and corporeal capabilities of humans and elephants are taken into consideration, as well as their mutual influences and the representations that arise from the specific contexts of interspecies communication and collaboration. The adopted multidisciplinary approach allows thinking the human-animal working unit in terms of cooperative interaction, and even intersubjective engagement – opening to reflections on the mutually beneficial modalities of the existence of humans and animals in a shared environment.
"Living and Working with Giants is a critical intervention in thinking about the Anthropocene – and I use the term Plantationocene to mark the significance of Lainé's work – for it shows how various forms of forestry and the capture and taming of wildlife were contingent on both human and elephant labour. [...] Tracking surviving modes of elephant capture among the Khamti community in Arunachal Pradesh and adjacent Assam in northeast India, Lainé's scholarship is multispecies ethnography in its best sense. [...] [He] prompts us to rethink the forms of discipline and the subjectivities that colonial and postcolonial regimes produced"
– Maan Barua, University of Cambridge