The Anthropocene introduced a new ‘universal collective’ – the human species seen as a group and acting as a global geophysical agent. While this ‘universal collective’ has been written about, it has usually been so from a western perspective. It has rarely been explored in relation to what a ‘universal collective’ might mean outside the Euro-American zone. As I see it, the challenge is to rethink ‘universal’ from within local traditions of intellection that have not travelled but are forced today to engage with an outside world that seems to bring with it death and destruction. In other words, what does it mean to be part of a ‘universal collective’ to someone who comes from a small community in the Majority world and if often at the receiving end of the effects of climate change? Highlighting the recent anthropological literature on the debates about the nonhuman in the Indic sphere, this paper critically examines how contradictions about this ‘universal collective’ often returns to deep-seated ideas about what it means to be human – especially in relation to ideas about the nonhuman – and what it means to be related to other humans. In other words, this paper attempts to underscore what lies at the heart of the endeavor of making sense of the ‘universal collective’, from a subaltern perspective, in a time of climate breakdown.
About the Speaker:
Annu Jalais is Assistant Professor of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore. She is an environmental anthropologist working on the human – animal interface, migration, and climate change, particularly in Bangladesh and India. She is the author of Forest of Tigers: People, Politics and Environment in the Sundarbans (Routledge, 2010) and the co-author of The Bengal Diaspora: Rethinking Muslim Migration (Routledge, 2015).