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The Strange Ecologies of Empire

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 February 2021


This essay reads nineteenth-century imperial India as the mise en scène for certain critical concatenations of human sovereignty, divinity, and animality. It does so by focusing on the imperial state's war upon human and extrahuman forms of predation, showcasing in the process a cluster of texts on collective criminal activity, hunting, and popular religion and folklore that share certain grids of intelligibility and vocabularies of rule. Collocating these texts on human and nonhuman predation brings into visibility the degree to which imperial sovereignty in the Victorian period entails traffic across human and extrahuman domains. Thus, thinking about the sanctioned killing of fearsome animal predators comes to be twinned with thinking about wars of pacification against dangerous humans and noxious deities. To think imperial sovereignty consequently involves thinking with humans and animals but also thinking with mutually antagonistic theological forces, Hindu and Christian—and in thinking these together. An attentiveness to these heterogeneous ecologies of empire might serve to illuminate the degree to which the imperial project depends on a complex mesh of transversal and co-constitutive life-forms and forces.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2021

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