Animals are ubiquitous by their presence but often absent in our critical thinking. This is even true of much debate on the future and past of India’s environment. Yet, human history can hardly be viewed in isolation from the way we relate to animals in our past, present and future. Even taking up well known mega mammals such as the lion and tiger, rhino and elephant can throw light on the multiple meanings and outcomes of the human animal encounter. The contests and careers of these interactions are of central importance in the quest for peace with nature. The cases chosen are few and may even be atypical but they are illustrative of ways in which the canvas of the natural and humanistic disciplines need to widen and deepen in new ways. After all, how we regard and relate to animals is best viewed in relation to their own changing ecologies and behaviours and socio-cultural and scientific changes.
Mahesh Rangarajan is professor of History and Environmental Studies at Ashoka University, Sonepat, Haryana. He has a BA in History( Delhi) and MA and Doctorate ( Oxford). he has taught at Delhi and Krea Universities. He has also been Visiting Faculty at Cornell, Jadavpur and the National Centre for Biological Sciences. In 2010, he was chair of the Elephant Task Force of the Government of India.
His books include Fencing the Forest (1996) and Nature and Nation ( 2015). Co-edited works include Battles over Nature( 2003) and At Nature’s Edge( 2018). Edited works include Environmental Issues in India (2007). He was in the founding team of two journals , Environmental and History (1996) and Conservation and Society( 2003)
He has served as Director of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library and as Vice Chancellor, Krea University. A Rhodes Scholar, in 2021 he was elected as Overseas Member of the American Historical Association, the fourth Indian to be so chosen.