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Sadhana Naithani, India

"Wildly Ours 4.0: Colonial Narratives of Non-Human Animals"

April 2022

Speaker's Biography:

Sadhana Naithani is professor at Centre of German Studies and Coordinator of Folklore Unit, SLL&CS, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She is the current president of the International Society for Folk Narrative Research and Honorary Fellow of the American Folklore Society. Her research interests span European and Indian, folklore and folkloristics. She has written on the disciplinary history of folkloristics in the contexts of British colonialism, on German folklore theory after WWII and on folkloristics in the Baltic countries under Soviet rule. Currently she is documenting narratives of time in German villages and researching folklore about wild life in colonial India.


Non-human animals have been conceptualized in human mind through narratives. Arguably, the oldest genre of folk narrative – the fable – resolved conundrums of human life and society through tales of non-human animals. Its impact was such that the fictional images of certain animals determined their real identity, for better or worse. Human beings construct their world narratively, but the narratives grow, change, renew and experience the displacement of old and emplacement of new narratives.

Colonial history is one such period of large-scale narrative change. In the postcolonial discourse on colonialism the focus has remained on human-human conflict/relationship for a long time, yet research on the exploitation of the wild life in colonies has been gaining ground.

The focus of this paper will be on the narratives about wild life generated and circulated in colonial contexts that determined the fate of several species who lived in the wild.