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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Menace and Management: Power in the Human-Monkey Social Worlds of Delhi and Shimla

  • Author(s): Solomon, Daniel Allen
  • Advisor(s): Harding, Susan F
  • et al.

This dissertation is based on ethnographic and textual research among the monkeys and humans of two Indian metropolises, mostly between 2006-2010. The monkeys are rhesus macaques, who have lived alongside humans in South Asia for thousands of years, make their livings in apparently anthropogenic material-symbolic environments. Rhesus participate in the shaping of the space of their interaction with humans; that is, they engage in multispecies world-building. In the context of their relationships with one another, humans and monkeys become capable of agency in multispecies contexts: members of the two species grant others' agency in contexts that might be otherwise unintelligible to them. Humans make monkeys into politically potent actors and speak for them in politics, and monkeys make humans into their subordinates, caretakers, and allies. I focus on government as an act of world-building, and I evaluate government attempts to manage monkeys in Delhi and Shimla. Governmentality can be considered as a part of monkeys' niche co-construction because the significances that government actors take into account are not wholly human in origin, and affections for monkeys play as important a role in government management calculations as the nuisance that the animals cause. My task here isn't to select the "best" government-built world, but to note how the specific styles of governmentality that have unfolded in Delhi and Shimla work upon the possibility of amenable interspecies relations. Delhi's management strategy performs the enforcement of an inviolate division between monkeys and urban spaces by translocating and keeping thousands of monkeys in a refuge to the south of the city, but in Shimla wildlife managers have opted for a sterilization program which allows the monkeys to return to their home site, thus minimally interfering in already-working situations of human-monkey interaction.

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