Beastly identification in India

The government of big cats in the Anthropocene

by NAYANIKA MATHUR

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How does a big cat in India come to be identified as the one guilty of preying on humans? Indian conservationist law stipulates that the big cat must be identified before it is hunted down. But as I demonstrate ethnographically, there is no possible means of establishing the correct identity of a big cat before it is killed. Through an account of the impossibility of beastly identification, this article demonstrates the limits of both bureaucratic action and conservation in the government of big cats. What operates, instead, is a form of knowing the nonhuman Other, a knowing that is localized, personalized, affective, and momentary. Such forms of knowledge and living-besides are called for by the Anthropocene. Indeed, an analytic potential of the Anthropocene lies in rendering untenable the continual disciplinary sequestering of the nonhuman and environmental from the political, bureaucratic, and legal. [bureaucracy, nonhuman animals, conservation, identification, government, Anthropocene, India]