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Conflict, Negotiation, and CoexistenceRethinking Human–Elephant Relations in South Asia$
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Piers Locke and Jane Buckingham

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199467228

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199467228.001.0001

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Conduct and Collaboration in Human–Elephant Working Communities of Northeast India

Conduct and Collaboration in Human–Elephant Working Communities of Northeast India

(p.180) 8 Conduct and Collaboration in Human–Elephant Working Communities of Northeast India
Conflict, Negotiation, and Coexistence

Nicolas Lainé

Oxford University Press

This chapter ethnographically explores the relations between humans and elephants in logging operations in terms of interspecies labour, presenting elephants as collaborating participants rather than merely animate instruments. This involves examining labour in terms of cooperation rather than coordination, to avoid the merely instrumental consideration of articulated operations, and conduct rather than behaviour, to avoid simplistic Pavlovian interpretations of conditioned responses to environmental stimuli. The approach, informed by recent research on elephant sociality and cognition, allows for analysis in terms of interactive understanding. Revealing elephants as consciously intentional colleague capable of withdrawing their cooperation, this chapter also shows the partiality of accounts of animal labour as only involving alienation and exploitation. Furthermore, the worksite is revealed as a space of interspecies relations in which identities are co-produced, and which cannot simply be reduced to human domination.

Keywords:   captive elephant management, northeast India, logging, mahout, non-human agency, interspecies labour, logging, collaboration, Khamti, Arunachal Pradesh

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