Nayanika Mathur: Entrapment— New ways of seeing big cats in India

On Friday 19 March Nayanika Mathur (University of Oxford) gave a talk entitled “Entrapment: New ways of seeing big cats in India” at the Visiting seminar in Anthropology at the University of Helsinki.


This paper forges connections between the visceral emotions that emerge from new ways of seeing nonhuman animals and the remaking of ethico-legal formations. It studies the conservationist practice of camera trapping in tandem with the expansion of surveillance cameras, smart phones, and the use of WhatsApp to circulate images of tigers and leopards in India. Believed by many to constitute the future of conservation, these new technologies for entrapping animals are proliferating, unleashing a range of emotions – ranging from shock and horror, spine-chills, laughter, to anguished tears. These emotive responses to new visuals of big cats are often overlooked in the technocratic desire to know more about our nonhuman counterparts. What also remains unremarked upon are the ways new forms of secretive and elite knowledges are being created with troubling ethical questions of who comes to know what and who doesn’t about our feline friends and, sometime, enemies.