Rebecca S Winkler
Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationPennsylvania, U. of
Grant numberGr. 10356
Approve DateApril 13, 2022
Project TitleWinkler, Rebecca (Pennsylvania, U. of) "Acting on Behalf of Elephants: The Ethics and Politics Human-Elephant Relations in Northern Thailand."
This project explores how human-elephant relationships are shaping the contours of contemporary environmental politics in Northern Thailand and is informed by long-term engagement with S’gaw Karen elephant keepers living in a highly securitized border region. In this context, where there are a diverse range of actors that include S’gaw Karen elephant keepers, state foresters, tourists, NGO workers, and scientists who all refer to ‘helping elephants’ and ‘conserving forest’ as the motivation for vastly different notions of how people should inhabit forests. I ask: In what ways do Karen people’s relations with elephants trouble epistemological boundaries between wild and domestic, village and forest, and human and animal social worlds? How have forms of valuing elephants changed over the last decades as they are incorporated into different regimes of knowledge and labor? How do competing frameworks for ethical coexistence between humans and elephants propel new forms of environmental politics that animate futures other than militarized conservation and neoliberal tourism development? I propose exploring these questions through ethnographic and archival research exploring.