Radhika Govindrajan: Exploring Multispecies Ethnography

Radhika Govindrajan: Charting the Unexplored Territories of Multispecies Ethnography

In the vast realm of anthropology, Radhika Govindrajan stands as a beacon, weaving intricate narratives of multispecies relatedness in the Central Himalayan state of Uttarakhand. As an Indian-American anthropologist, researcher, and assistant associate professor at the University of Washington, Govindrajan’s journey is nothing short of inspiring.

Career Path and Achievements of Radhika Govindrajan

Govindrajan’s academic odyssey began with an MA degree in history from Jawaharlal Nehru University in 2006, followed by a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Yale University in 2013. Her intellectual journey unfolded as she transitioned from a lecturer at the University of Illinois to an assistant associate professor at the University of Washington in 2015.

Her notable contributions extend beyond the lecture halls; Govindrajan authored the award-winning book, “Animal Intimacies: Interspecies Relations in India’s Central Himalayas.”

Published by the University of Chicago Press in May 2018, this profound work explores the myriad symbolic, material, and affective relationships that villagers in the Central Himalayas share with diverse nonhuman animals.

Notably, Radhika Govindrajan’s efforts garnered recognition, earning her the Edward Cameron Dimock Prize from the American Institute of Indian Studies and the Gregory Bateson Prize in 2019.

In June 2020, her excellence reached new heights as she became one of the fellows for the year 2020 by the American Council of Learned Societies, solidifying her status as a trailblazer in her field.

Academic Reflections and Current Endeavors

In an insightful interview, Radhika Govindrajan shared her academic evolution, highlighting her transition from a history-focused background to an anthropologist. Her experience at Yale University played a pivotal role, exposing her to diverse intellectual communities and shaping her thoughts across various domains.

Govindrajan’s current research endeavors delve into the intriguing intersection of sex scandals, rurality, and the dynamics of elections in contemporary India. Her commitment to bridging disciplinary boundaries is evident in her exploration of wider issues, including colonialism, migration, religious practices, nationalism, and gender politics.

Insights into Ethnographic Research

Reflecting on her extensive fieldwork in eastern Uttarakhand, Radhika Govindrajan emphasized the dynamic nature of rural areas, shaped by agrarian labor, migration, technological advancements, and environmental changes.

Her approach extended beyond traditional “village ethnographies,” encompassing a diverse array of perspectives, from urbanites seeking environmental purity to wildlife conservationists and Hindu nationalists.

As a South Asian Studies Council fellow at Yale, Radhika Govindrajan found invaluable support in the South Asia Center, fostering a community that encouraged critical thinking about the relationship between environmental history and societal structures.

The Essence of Multispecies Ethnography

Radhika Govindrajan’s work transcends conventional boundaries, delving into the realm of multispecies ethnography. Her interest lies in unraveling the complexities of inter-species communication and translation, echoing anthropologist Marisol de la Cadena’s perspective on translation as an open, incomplete, and imperfect process.

In her words, the challenge lies in doing imaginative, creative, and playful work to understand nonhuman animals, even if imperfectly.

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