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The Nehru Memorial Museum & Library


‘Enter “Climate Change”: Of beastly encounters, cervine disappearances and state categorization in the Uttarakhand Himalaya’', 4th March, 2015.

‘Enter “Climate Change”:
Of beastly encounters, cervine disappearances and
state categorization in the Uttarakhand Himalaya’

Dr. Nayanika Mathur,
Cambridge University,
Cambridge, UK.


This paper traces the introduction of the category of climate change into the Indian Himalaya. Climate change emerged – through the labours of the local state bureaucracy – as an explanation for recurring incidences of human-animal conflict and the disappearance of a protected species. Even as the narratives on climate change were being imbued with expert authority, counter narratives dealing with the very same phenomena voiced by long-term residents of the Himalayas were summarily dismissed by the state as constituting mere conspiracy theories. This paper accords both these narratives equal space and details the effects of the explanatory force of climate change in this region. On the basis of ethnography centred upon humans, big cats, bears, and musk deer, it argues for an enhanced ethnographic specificity to the political work done in the name of climate change. It questions the analytic utility of the concept of the anthropocene and ends by outlining certain distinctive characteristics of climate change as a concept and call to act upon the world.


Dr. Nayanika Mathur is a British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge. She is additionally a Research Fellow at Cambridge’s Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities (CRASSH). Her monograph, Paper Tiger: Law, Bureaucracy, and the Developmental State in Himalayan India, is forthcoming with Cambridge University Press. Some of her work has appeared in Modern Asian Studies, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, and Political and Legal Anthropology Review (PoLAR).

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