My research is committed to tracing the entanglements between humans and the environment, and the ways in which they are wrapped up in and constitute one another. I use ethnography to trace how the social worlds in which human subjectivity and life unfold are created by the world-building labor of a multiplicity of beings, both human and nonhumanan. My first book Animal Intimacies: Interspecies Relatedness in India's Central Himalayas (June 2018, University of Chicago Press) asks what it means to live and die in relation to other animals, and situates this question in the realm of everyday intimacies - care, indifference, curiosity, kinship, violence, killing, and desire – between human and nonhuman animals. Through an exploration of themes as diverse as ritual animal sacrifice, colonial and postcolonial wildlife conservation, villagers’ talk about human-bear sex, Hindu right-wing projects of cow-protection, Animal Intimacies illuminates how these multiple nodes of interspecies relatedness are crucially shaped by and shape larger discourses and practices of gender, caste, nature, and religion in contemporary India. Drawing on more than two and a half years of ethnographic fieldwork between 2008 and 2014 in mountain villages in India’s Central Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, the book demonstrates how the texture and depth of embodied social relations between particular animals and humans affect the course and outcome of their lives, allowing them to make political, ethical and affective claims on one another. The book manuscript was awarded the 2017 American Institute of Indian Studies Edward C. Dimock Prize in the Indian Humanities.
My current research project extends these threads of inquiry into a study of how contemporary democratic politics – particularly popular mobilization, electoral politics, and judicial activism and action – in the Central Himalayas engages and is being transformed by agrarian and environmental crises that affect not just human lives, but also involve the more-than-human world of animals, trees, rivers, forests, and deities. I seek to understand not only how democratic politics is constituted through discourses and practices of more-than-human sociality, relationality and responsibility but also how such epistemologies and ontologies are themselves transformed as they are drawn into this political realm.
I teach courses on animal studies, South Asia, the anthropology of religion, the history of anthropology, the posthuman turn, ethnography, and agrarian and environmental studies.