Living and working with giants

Later on, when the British dominated Assam following the Yandaboo Treaty (1826), they found the Sadiya area under Khamti control. Under the direction of David Scott, Assam's first colonial administrator, they acknowledged the Khamti as ...

Living and working with giants

This book proposes a unique and immersive multispecies ethnography of the cooperative interaction between the Khamti and elephants in Northeast India. It is based on extended research fieldwork, which attempts not only to describe how the Khamti establish working relationships with elephants, but also considers the involvement of animals in this joint-venture. Through a step-by-step approach, the book addresses different aspects of the interspecies working unit from the beginning of Khamti-elephant association through to its evolvement at work. Back and forth from village to forest, through rich and meticulous descriptions, Nicolas Lainé brings the reader up close in following the capture of a juvenile forest elephant, documenting its transformation into a village elephant. In this unique way, Lainé shows how the initial human-animal bonds evolve and persist at work as a two-way, reciprocated process. The adopted multi-disciplinary approach allows thinking the human-elephant working unit in terms of intersubjective engagement. In its analysis, Nicolas Lainé took into consideration of the cognitive capacities and corporeal capabilities of humans and elephants, their reciprocal influences, and the representations that arise from specific contexts in which interspecies communication and collaboration is manifest. Hence, the proposition on interspecies labour sheds new light not only with respect to what we know (or we think we know) about animals, but also modifies our idea of domestication. At the workplace, humans and animals not only partake in a common world, but that they produce this world together and transform it through their collaboration. Beyond this, the book shows how the quality of shared living conditions for both animal and human are intrinsically linked. It opens doors to a new approach of species conservation and the realization of a very current and widespread aspiration: that of extending the mutually beneficial modalities of existence of humans and animals in their shared environment.

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