Biopolitics of Lively Capital: Recolonizing Uttar Pradesh’s jungles through animal and tree fencing

Authors: Pierre-Alexandre Paquet*, University of Wisconsin - Madison
Topics: Animal Geographies, Environment, Political Geography
Keywords: political ecology, capital accumulation, animal anthropology, environmental conservation, pastoralists
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: 8222, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In the social sciences, depicting the British colonization of the Indian subcontinent as a political, social, and ecological watershed has become a convention (Guha 1989). Nevertheless, recent environmental scholarships have compelled us not to take this historiographic norm for granted (Sivaramakrishnan 2009, Rangarajan 2009). Careful attention to the entanglement of Indian wildness in the mechanisms of capital accumulation troubles representations of biological diversity as a passive backdrop against which colonial and postcolonial endeavors have gone on and on (Birch 1990, Skaria 1999). The knotty assemblages called forest conservancy, animal protection and environmental conservation never were simple "derivations" of colonialism and capital in India. They flagged regionally specific and fragmented biopolitics (Srinivasan 2014, Govindrajan 2017). In the area of my study, the Indian Forest Department constantly redeploys lively commodities such as trees and animals for recolonizing the land and reclaiming political legitimacy. Animals and plants are weaponized as moving fences and prison walls (Barua 2014, Robbins 2001, Paquet, forthcoming). Meanwhile, traditional forest dwellers such as the semi-nomadic Van Gujjars re-position their own lively commodities, milk, plants and buffaloes, in a swiftly changing web of values and meanings (Comaroff 1990, Ferguson 1985, Hutchinson 1992). This presentation shows that capital accumulation within the jangal of Northwestern Uttar Pradesh is not only the product of scientific progress and concomitant enclosure and privatization (Smith 2010, Goldstein and Johnson 2015). Capital is deeply transformed by the agentive power of nonhuman living beings as well as humans concerns towards material and symbolic engagements with animals and plants.

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