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Science, Technology and Medicine Seminar



Samiparna Samanta
O. P Jindal Global University Meat, Mercy, Morality: Animals and Humanitarianism in Colonial India


20 Nov 2018

3:30 p.m.
4.36 Run Run Shaw Tower, Centennial Campus



This talk examines the relationship between animals, diet, and disease in late nineteenth and early twentieth century India to analyze its impact on the history of Calcutta's urban spaces. More specifically, it explores how slaughterhouse emerged as a major site of tension among British public health officers, humane societies, and the bhadralok (Bengali middle class) as they came to be enmeshed in an interlocking relationship and debated the regulation of Calcutta’s urban space. In the twentieth century, with the emergence of new notions of social hygiene, contests over appropriate measures for controlling animals became part of wider debates surrounding environmental ethics, vegetarianism, and a politics of race/class that reconfigured boundaries between the colonized and colonizer, "humans" and "nonhuman animals." At a theoretical level, through this story of animal-human interface, I illustrate how the Bengali bhadralok in their understanding of diet and germs, often mediated the language of modern 'science' and imagined it in their own cultural contexts. More importantly, I demonstrate how humans and animals often mimicked the boundaries between the colonized and the colonizer.


Samiparna Samanta is an Associate Professor at Jindal Global Law School, O. P Jindal Global University (JGU), India. As part of her own research, Samiparna focuses on nineteenth and twentieth century South Asia, predominantly in areas of history of science and medicine, environmental history; colonialism; human-animal relations. Prior to JGU, Samiparna was an Associate Professor of History at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, USA, where she taught a spatially and thematically diverse range of courses including Islam across the Indian Ocean, History of Science, Constructing the 'Orient.' Samiparna received her Bachelor's degree from Presidency College, Kolkata and Master's degree in History from the University of Calcutta. She worked as a Junior Research Fellow in Kolkata for a year before she moved to the United States to pursue her doctoral studies. She received her Ph.D. from Florida State University (FSU) in summer 2012, and an MA in History of Science and Medicine from FSU in 2008. Samiparna has published in peer-reviewed journals along with chapters in edited volumes. She is currently working on her book manuscript that uses the lens of human-animal relationships to understand the nature of British imperialism in India.


This event is a Science, Technology and Medicine Seminar organised by the Centre for the Humanities and Medicine. Cosponsored by the Department of History.