Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Nandi Bhatia

2nd Supervisor

Joshua Schuster

Joint Supervisor


In recent decades, postcolonial writers and critics have started attending to representations of animals in literature from the global south (e.g. Armstrong 2002; Huggan and Tiffin 2010). While the turn toward literary animals has been acknowledged for its potential to complicate how colonial violence dehumanized colonized groups, scholars such as Lucille Desblache have pointed out that animals can also go “unseen” or “unheard” in the service of human narratives about emancipation from colonial dominance if they are treated as allegories for the emancipatory process (Desblache 2016). Critical animal studies, meanwhile, has extensively critiqued how liberal humanism in the West has marginalized animals (Cavell 2009; Nussbaum 2007; Shukin 2009), but the field has only recently started to engage with the Global South (e.g. Sivasundaram 2015). As a contribution to both of these fields, this thesis dwells in the fissures between India’s environmental history and the corpus of Indian literature about animals to reimagine the boundary between humans and animals as a zone of potential resistance against the state’s mandate to control how animals live and die. Over the last 150 years, key shifts in the colonial and postcolonial state’s environmental, administrative, and fiscal policies—such as the founding of the Imperial Forest Service in 1864, constitutional amendments to animal husbandry following the withdrawal of the imperial government in 1947, and the Indian Forest Service’s ongoing engagement with the global conservation movement—have accompanied shifts in the species boundary as a means to secure the state’s control over animals through its legislative and economic mechanisms. Throughout this period, the state has constructed animals variously—and, at times, simultaneously—as deviants, labourers, fetish objects, and commodities. This thesis shows how literary representations of Indian animals by Rudyard Kipling (1893), Bhanu Kapil (1935; 2009), Tania James (2015), Amitabh (1992), and Arjun Dangle (1992) might disrupt and reimagine the totalizing logic of species boundaries constitutive of colonial and postcolonial legislation even as the texts themselves remain unavoidably embedded in the state’s hegemonic paradigms of race, class, caste, gender, and species.