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  • Writer's pictureClaudia Hirtenfelder

S3E4 - Urban Biopolitics with Krithika Srinivasan (Show Notes)

Krithika Srinivasan

“The internalisation of norms if the core mechanism through which biopower operates” - Krithika Srinivasan

Published a little over a year ago, Claudia talks to Krithika Srinivasan about the concept of biopolitics and how it could be used to understand multi-species urban relations. They touch on the tensions between harm and welfare as well as how different socio-biological tactics are enforced in the name of urban development.

Krithika Srinivasan’s research and teaching interests lie at the intersection of political ecology, post-development politics, animal studies, and nature geographies. Her work draws on research in South Asia to rethink globally established concepts and practices about nature-society relations. Through empirical projects on street dogs and public health, biodiversity conservation, animal agriculture, and non-elite environmentalisms, her scholarship focuses on decolonizing and reconfiguring approaches to multispecies justice. Both her research and teaching are deeply rooted in long-term field engagement and praxis in India. Krithika has worked as a Lecturer in the departments of Geography at the University of Exeter and Durham University before moving to Edinburgh. You can find out more about Krithika here and connect with her on Twitter (@kritcrit).

00:36 – Claudia introduces the show

  • Krithika Srinivasan bio

  • Krithika is currently in India. There is a fair bit of noise but it is hopefully not too distracting.

  • Interjections offered moments for interesting insight

00:03:20 – Welcome to the show and about Krithika

  • Interacted with animals in the urban

  • Grandfather sparked interest in seeing and appreciating animals

  • Started thinking about this issues (ethics, justice, politics) once at university while doing a masters degree in social work

  • Juncture between lived realities and academic work – huge absence in the social science with a focus on animals

  • Tensions animal studies has grappled with – where does it sit the political sphere? Why is it an outlier with justice movements in general?

  • Tension between developing and developed countries - Modern cities are thought of as devoid of animals

  • Ended up at Kings College in London and did PhD on issues of controversy related to street dogs and marine turtle sanctuaries. A dichotomy between conservation and animal protection even though they are both spheres of action. “What would happen if I studied things together that are normally kept apart?”

19:13 – What is Biopolitics?

  • How harm and care are entangled

  • Using it a very Foucauldian sense

  • About different kinds of power you see in society and the different ways it operates: sovereign power is only one way of power. Power can be exercised through logics of care and ideas of improvement

  • Narratives at play that frame something as positive even though it is negative, start to exercise this power on yourself

  • Difference in being forced to do something versus confirming to something

  • Biopolitics questions the everyday things we think we should do and we are not sure why

  • Talking about practices when you are actually doing yourself harm

  • Bio – we are primarily talking about the governance of life. Initially thinking about human populations and societies.

27:15 – Biopolitics and the urban

  • Not necessarily an urban concept

  • The biopolitics of animal being and welfare: dog control and care in the UK and India [PAPER]

  • “It’s not just about belonging but about what is a good dog life” - Krithika

  • Increasing pervasiveness of the idea that dogs only have a good life if they are in a human home

  • Linked to historical concerns about rabies in the UK.

  • Neutering is a harmful practices for dogs but framed as a positive – neuter with narrative of animal care and not animal control

  • Neutering is a widespread animal welfare practice

  • How did neutering become the gold standard in welfare? Used on dogs and cats.

41: 15 – Norms

  • “Biopower operates through the internalization of norms” – Krithika

  • Those who act on behalf of animals internalize these norms

  • Animals experience the world [Check out Season 2 focused on Animals and Experience]

  • Are animals also internalizing these norms?

  • Not sure how to test if animals have internalized these norms so would hesitate to comment on that

  • Elizabeth Lou film, Stray, following stray dogs in Istanbul. Seemed like they had internalized norms.

  • Stray is a culturally specific term.

  • These are systems of classification

Accessed from here -

48:18 – Quote: Development and Biopolitics

  • Development and the idea of biodiversity are often used to manage animals lives

  • A certain vision of what a good human life should look like or what a good urban life should look like. This vision of development, for example, excludes the idea of stray dogs.

  • Sterile notions of what a city should look like and how it should develop

  • Development is fundamentally biopolitical – these are harmful practices but they are actively justified through ideas of progress

  • Harms often justified in the service of more privileged communities – harm has been concentrated on specific populations. Unequal distribution of harms and benefits.

  • Invasive species and adaptive creatures versus native creatures – where is conservationist attention focused and who are being used as scapegoats?

  • Paula Arcari discusses how the animals who are included are also impacted in these policies.

01:01:02 – How do we challenge these development discourses?

  • We need to learn in the city to live with bats and cockroaches before we expect people in rural areas to live with elephants and the like.

  • “Same people who promote tiger or elephant conservation may not be open to sharing their space with less noxious creatures and that is where the change needs to come?” – Krithika

01:04:00 – What are you currently working on?

  • Looking at farmed animals in India which has the largest farm sector

  • Using a decolonial approach o public health and street dogs. Look at multi-dimensions of relations that dogs have with people and human health.

01:07:20 – The Animal Highlight – The Urban Dog

  • Read an except ‘On Looking’ by Alexandra Horowitz, Chapter on her dog Finnegan

  • What does a city block smell like?

  • Dogs don’t necessarily walk along straight lines based on sidewalks but rather on smells

  • Dogs are considered the first animal humans domesticated, around 900 million dogs in the world and most of them are free roaming dogs.

  • Check out Moscow’s urban dogs that use the subway.

1:12:00 – Thank yous

Thank you to Krithika, A.P.P.L.E, Jeremy John, and Gordon Clarke

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