I am a cultural anthropologist who works across the fields of multispecies ethnography, environmental anthropology, the anthropology of religion, South Asian Studies, and political anthropology. My research is motivated by a longstanding interest in understanding how human relationships with nonhumans in South Asia are variously drawn into and shape broader issues of cultural, political, and social relevance: religious nationalism; elite projects of environmental conservation and animal-rights; everyday ethical action in a time of environmental decline; and people’s struggle for social and political justice in the face of caste discrimination, patriarchal domination, and state violence and neglect.
My first book Animal Intimacies (University of Chicago Press, 2018; Penguin Random House India 2019) is an ethnography of multispecies relatedness in the Central Himalayan state of Uttarakhand in India. It was awarded the 2017 American Institute of Indian Studies Edward Cameron Dimock Prize in the Indian Humanities and the 2019 Gregory Bateson Prize, by the Society for Cultural Anthropology. Animal Intimacies is an ethnography of the myriad symbolic, material, and affective relationships that villagers in the Central Himalayas have with a variety of nonhuman animals – goats, cows, bears, wild boar, leopards, dogs, and monkeys. Animal Intimacies explores how this relatedness is shaped by wider issues and contexts including colonialism, rural-urban migration, changing religious practices, right-wing nationalism, wildlife conservation, and the politics of gender.
I am currently working on three research projects. The first draws on ethnographic and archival work in Uttarakhand to explore how democratic politics in contemporary India is being constituted anew through emergent discourses and practices of more-than-human sociality, relationality and responsibility. This project is supported by fellowships from the ACLS and Fulbright Program. The second examines scandals around sex, love, religion and land in Uttarakhand in order to understand the changing nature of rural subjectivity in India. The third project is concerned with the relationship between elections and broader social life, and examines how electoral discourses and practices and ordinary forms of sociality shape each other in rural and small-town Uttarakhand.
I teach courses on animal studies, South Asia, the anthropology of religion, the history of anthropology, ethnography, and agrarian and environmental studies.