ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

17 – More Than Human: Animal-Human Relations in Pre-Modern South Asia

Animals, and the non-human world, are a vivid presence in pre-modern life and historical sources. Yet, academic literature on this period has largely remained concerned with human affairs and human agency.

Convenors

Shayan Rajani - Lahore University of Management Sciences, History, Lahore, Pakistan
Corinne Lefèvre - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Centre for South Asian Studies, Paris, France

Long Abstract

Animals, and the non-human world, are a vivid presence in pre-modern life and historical sources. Yet, academic literature on this period has largely remained concerned with human affairs and human agency. Rather than conceive animal-human relations in presentist terms, as the incomplete mastery by humans (specifically, men) over the non-human world, this panel theorizes the diverse connections and collaborations between animals and humans that shaped the pre-modern world. Through thick descriptions and specific case studies, it explores the affective, material, sacral, ecological, political, and moral bases that both divided and joined animals and humans.

Broadly, the panel is interested in forging new theoretical and methodological approaches within this field of study. First, it historicizes and theorizes the relationship between humans and nature in the pre-modern world, while remaining attuned to regional and ecological specificities. It eschews anthropocentrism, and understands agency and historical action as distributed across the living, human and non-human, as also non-living actants. Consequently, it proposes environmental histories of the pre-modern, which do not prioritize human action as the only source of historical transformation. Second, it explores interdisciplinary approaches and new archives to answer these questions. It brings together the methods of history and art history with archaeology and environmental sciences, and considering both textual and non-textual archives.