Posthuman cosmopolitanism as a vegan ethic for planning zoöpolises: human-snake relations in urban India

Authors: Yamini Narayanan*, Deakin University
Topics: Animal Geographies, Urban Geography, Asia
Keywords: Vegan geography, posthuman, human, snake, urban, India
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Astor Ballroom III, Astor, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

India’s rapid urbanisation and biodiversity decline together have critical global implications but the complex social dimensions of urban biodiversity are overlooked in current planning. This paper argues that if successful cities are spaces that embrace and celebrate pluralism – multicultural, multiracial, multi-religious and gendered – then it is vital to broaden this idea of cosmopolitanism to include ‘multinatural’ diversity or multispecies diversity in the Anthropocene. Cosmopolitanism is generally understood as a humanist notion, based on transcending constituted cultural and political otherness. However animals have also been politicised as constituting nations and play strong social and cultural roles in human worlds. This paper conceptualises of 'posthuman cosmpolitanism' as a critical vegan ethic to argue for species-inclusive zoöpolises as viable cities of the future. It argues that if diversity is an indicator of successful cities, then the concept of cosmopolitanism must necessarily extend to multispecies in the Anthropocene. As an illustrative example, the paper examines the human-snake conflict, one of the most fraught and widespread human-animal encounters in Indian cities. Snakes play vital roles in urban ecologies, and human interventions like relocations or killings have devastating outcomes for snakes, other wildlife, and urban ecological health. Socio-cultural perceptions of snakes overwhelmingly shape the reaction to their presence in urban areas, generally deemed exclusively human zones. Fundamental to snake preservation in cities therefore, is a reconfiguration of the human-to-snake relations in social frames.

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