Samiparna SamantaDec 2, 2023
Meat, Mercy, Morality
Animals and Humanitarianism in Colonial Bengal, 1850-1920
Oxford University Press 2021
Meat, Mercy, and Morality: Animals and Humanitarianism in Colonial Bengal, 1850-1920 (Oxford University Press, 2023) by Dr. Samiparna Samanta disentangles complex discourses around humanitarianism to understand the nature of British colonialism in India. Dr. Samanta contends that the colonial project of animal protection in late nineteenth-century Bengal mirrored an irony. Emerging notions of public health and debates on cruelty against animals exposed the disjunction between the claims of a benevolent Empire and a powerful imperial reality where the state constantly sought to discipline its subjects-both human and nonhuman.
Centered around stories of animals as diseased, eaten, and overworked, the book shows how such contests over appropriate measures for controlling animals became part of wider discussions surrounding environmental ethics, diet, sanitation, and the politics of race and class. The author combines history with archive, arguing that colonial humanitarianism was not only an idiom of rule, but was also translated into Bengali dietetics, anxieties, vegetarianism, and vigilantism, the effect of which can be seen in contemporary politics of animal slaughter in India.
This interview was conducted by Dr. Miranda Melcher whose forthcoming book focuses on post-conflict military integration, understanding treaty negotiation and implementation in civil war contexts, with qualitative analysis of the Angolan and Mozambican civil wars.