Paul Greenough - Making House Crows Great Again: The Environmental History of a Diasporic Species, April 24, 2017, 4:00 PM - 5:30 PM

Lecture/Lecture Series

Chao Center for Asian Studies

Paul R. Greenough
Emeritus Professor of Modern Indian History, Emeritus Professor of Community and Behavioral Health

From: University of Iowa

Mechanical Laboratory

How can environmental historians connect with the common reader to make biodiversity losses and species extinction feel real? A well-worn strategy is to narrate the twilight of a cherished animal -- as has been done wonderfully well for tigers and elephants in India. But my project goes in another direction and studies the decline of the common Indian house crow, Corvus splendens, a native species whose terrain crosses South Asia. Indian house crows eschew the jungle for villages and towns; in fact, house crows are India’s most persistent companionate species and have always flourished side by side with humans in villages and cities. Yet crows have recently begun to disappear, triggering popular and environmentalist concerns. At the same time, economic interests and accidental stowaways have carried house crows from India to coastal areas of East Africa, the Persian Gulf, Southeast Asia and even to Europe where a breeding colony now flourishes in the Netherlands. Wherever Indian crows go, they triumph over native crows and other species to establish a loud, messy presence in towns and cities, triggering protectionist ire and genocidal rage. Using the archival resources of social history, the observational methods of ethnography, and the philosophical premises of post-humanism, my work explores hidden threads of dominance and dependence within this animal diaspora.

This event is part of programming supported by a grant from the US Department of Education, Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Languages (UISFL) program {Grant ID # P016A 160003}.

Paul R. Greenough
Paul R. Greenough is emeritus Professor of Modern Indian History and of Community and Behavioral Health at the University of Iowa. He was the director of the University’s South Asian Studies Program and co-director of the Global Health Studies Program. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Columbia University and his PhD degree from the University of Chicago. His recent research concerns themes in India’s environmental history and the history of public health and the introduction of field epidemiology into the post-colonial world. Among other works he is the author of Prosperity and Misery in Modern Bengal: the Famine of 1943 (1982; reprint edition 2017; Bengali edition 1997) and co-editor of three collections: Nature in the Global South: Environmental Projects in South and Southeast Asia (2003), Against Stigma: Global Studies in Caste and Race (2009), and The Politics of Vaccination: A Global History (2017). During 2016-17 Professor Greenough is a Senior Fulbright-Nehru fellow attached to the Department of History of Jadavpur University in Kolkata, India.

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