Nayanika Mathur, associate professor in anthropology at University of Oxford, will present Crooked Cats. Beastly Encounters in the Anthropocene (University of Chicago Press, 2021) in the Greenhouse environmental humanities book talk series.
This talk was originally scheduled for 10 May 2021 but will be rescheduled
How do humans live near big cats—tigers, leopards, and lions—that may or may not be predatory? Though they are popularly known as “man eaters,” this new book by anthropologist Nayanika Mathur reframes them as cats that have gone off the straight path to become “crooked.” Her firsthand account of living with crooked cats in India lays bare the peculiar atmosphere of terror these encounters create, reinforced by rumors, anger, humor, myths, conspiracy theories, and the making of “celebrity” cats.
There are various theories of why and how a big cat turns to eating people, and Mathur lays out the dominant ideas offered on the basis of fifteen years of research in India. These vary from the effects of climate change and habitat loss to history and politics. There is no firm explanation for why specific big cats turn on humans, even from the scientists who study animal behavior. Detailing the beastly tales emerging from the uncertainty created by the presence and actions of crooked cats, this book offers startling new insights into both the governance of nonhumans and their deep entanglements with humans.