Lehre Sommersemester 2018

Wildlife and Power in Colonial and Post Colonial India (1850- 1990)


Thursday 16:00-18:00
Arnold Bode str. 2, Raum 0408

This seminar explores human-wildlife interactions in India between 1850 and 1990. Classroom discussions will revolve around constructs of nature, wilderness, wild animals and sovereignty in relation to Indian princely states and the British Empire in colonial India and the independent Indian nation state (1947 onwards). The seminar examines the diverse social groups of humans whose lives and activities converged around, impacted and were moulded by interactions with different species of wildlife including lions, tigers, bears, and elephants. British Empire in India is known for redefining hunting traditions, subjugating non humans and human others. We will investigate the empire also from the perspective of the semi-sovereign Princely States that fringed British India. The Princes developed their own rituals of hunting and governing wildlife. Sports, leisure, work and encounters with the wild in colonial India moved in tandem with the growth of scientific knowledge. Towards the post colonial period (1940s), the persons who once took pride in hunting embraced wildlife conservation. Starting out from the level of wild animal life, we will discuss the paradigm shifts from hunting to protection to conservation of wildlife and the particular species of wild animals and the diverse groups of humans belonging to different races, castes, social and economic backgrounds that these ideas and practices impacted, empowering and or marginalizing them in the 1900s.
Since this seminar sets out to understand relations of power in colonial and post colonial India from the vantage point of wildlife, it also includes basic readings on empire, sovereignty, power and others on wilderness, nature and conservation. Thus, it will also be introductory and imparts fundamental knowledge of Indian colonial history.


Cederlöff, Gunnel. 2013. Rule against Nature: Founding an Empire on India’s North-Eastern frontiers. NMML OCCASIONAL PAPER HISTORY AND SOCIETY New Series 20.

Cronon, William. 1996. The Trouble with Wilderness: Or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature. Environmental History 1(1):7-28.

Hussain, Shafqat. 2010. Sports Hunting: Fairness and Colonial Identity: Collaboration and Subversion in the Northwestern Frontier Region of the British Indian Empire. Conservation and Society 8 (2): 112-116.

Hughes. Julie. 2013. Animal Kingdoms Hunting Environment and Power in the Indian Princely States. Harvard University Press.

Rajamannar, Shefali. 2012. Reading the Animal in the Literature of the British Raj. USA: Palgrave Macmillan, selections.

Rangarajan, Mahesh. 2013. Animals with Rich Histories: The Case of the Lions of Gir Forest, Gujarat, India. History and Theory 52(4) Does History Need Animals: 109-127.

Learning Goals:

  • To understand colonial India, the British Empire and the Indian Princely states that fringed British India
  • To examine the changing ideas of nature and wildlife from different perspectives including social construction and modern science
  • To interrogate wildlife-human interactions from perspectives of different people and animals who occupy varying positions of power
  • To think with and combine different sources of data including secondary literature, the colonial archive, reports and pamphlets from forest management, advocacy institutions and campaigns