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Animal Intimacies: Interspecies Relatedness in India's Central Himalayas (Animal Lives) (Paperback)
What does it mean to live and die in relation to other animals? Animal Intimacies posits this central question alongside the intimate—and intense—moments of care, kinship, violence, politics, indifference, and desire that occur between human and non-human animals.
Built on extensive ethnographic fieldwork in the mountain villages of India’s Central Himalayas, Radhika Govindrajan’s book explores the number of ways that human and animal interact to cultivate relationships as interconnected, related beings. Whether it is through the study of the affect and ethics of ritual animal sacrifice, analysis of the right-wing political project of cow-protection, or examination of villagers’ talk about bears who abduct women and have sex with them, Govindrajan illustrates that multispecies relatedness relies on both difference and ineffable affinity between animals. Animal Intimacies breaks substantial new ground in animal studies, and Govindrajan’s detailed portrait of the social, political and religious life of the region will be of interest to cultural anthropologists and scholars of South Asia as well.
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“Recommended. . .Animal Intimacies provides a fascinating ethnographic study on the social and emotional entanglements of humans and animals in the Kumaon region of the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand. . .Govindrajan’s ethnography reveals that the agency of animal subjects has significantly shaped the social relations, everyday ethical practices, and religious worldviews of the Pahari peoples of Uttarakhand. This text will appeal widely to students interested in human-animal relations and critical applications of posthumanist theories.”
“Animal Intimacies vividly conveys the intense entanglement of interspecies relations in Kumaon, a Himalayan region in the state of Uttarakhand in northern India. . . . The result is a highly readable and vital contribution to the discipline that illuminates the key theoretical debates in multispecies ethnography.”
— American Ethnologist
“The antagonist hovering over Radhika Govindrajan's Animal Intimacies is not anthropocentrists, but rather those who kill and police humans in the animal's name. This attention to the political landscape, where violence articulates itself as from a place of love, is what makes her book so timely and important. Her close attention to the social, historical, and physical landscape of her fieldsite, Kumaon, which is part of India's state of Uttarakhand in the central Himalayas, and her ability to narrate the liveliness of these landscapes is what makes this book beautiful.”
— Asian Ethnology
“A compelling book. In bringing to light the relatedness of human and non-human lives, Govindrajan illustrates the richness of such interactions. . . . The richness of the book means that it will be of interest to readers in the field of human-animal studies. It should also appeal to readers more generally as an example of how lived experiences reflect wider social, political and historical patterns.”
— Contemporary South Asia
"A meticulously researched, thoughtfully argued, imaginatively organized, and beautifully written ethnographic monograph . . . Animal Intimacies is well on its way to becoming a classic text in anthropology, environmental studies, feminist science studies, animal studies, and South Asian studies."
— American Anthropologist
“Animal Intimacies is written in a beautiful style, and the scholarship is exemplary: both rigorous and creative. Govindrajan's exceptional ethnography demonstrates the range of relationships people in the central Himalayas of India have with animals—relationships that can be described, ultimately, as ones of everyday, entangled intimacy. By showing us the textures of these intimacies, Govindrajan demonstrates that animals are not mere objects in the lives and reflections of humans, but are thinking, feeling subjects themselves, playing equal parts in human-animal cohabitation.”
— Naisargi N. Dave, University of Toronto
“Written in a lively style combining reflexive reportage with anthropological analysis, Animal Intimacies vividly portrays the everyday life and social concerns of villagers in the hill state of Uttarakhand through their interactions with household domesticates and encounters with forest animals. Its chapter-by-chapter engagement with a succession of distinct interspecies relations makes for a memorable and innovative ethnography. Govindrajan's richly detailed account of human lives led with animals succeeds in addressing many contemporary issues confronting people in India’s hill-states, while also making a valuable contribution to the anthropology of human-animal relations.”
— Piers Locke, University of Canterbury
"Govindrajan’s scholarship brings attention to the more-than-human relationships that exist in everyday life in Kumaon, and contributes to feminist scholarship on kinship and relatedness. Consistent with the orientation of multispecies ethnography, this work treats animals as subjects with agency and emotion, while adding a critical dimension to its engagement with particular, individual animals, instead of only engaging with them as part of a collective or abstract category of animal."
— Pacific Affairs
"Radhika Govindrajan's Animal Intimacies contributes to a growing body of literature in the social sciences and humanities on human-animal relations. Govindrajan, an anthropologist, draws on fieldwork experiences with villagers and the animals with which they share their lives in the state of Uttarakhand in the Central Himalayas. . . The book's greatest strengths lie in the author's attention to embodied effective care practices between humans and other species and the close attention given to animals as complex and active subjects."