Mentor: Amy Allocco
Project title: Nonviolence and the hierarchy of life: The function and ethics of contemporary Jain animal homes
I arrived in Tamil Nadu at the beginning of January to participate in the South India Term Abroad (SITA) program based in Madurai, a city of approximately one million humans and many nonhumans (cows, buffaloes, goats, dogs, and others). I was fortunate enough to be placed in a homestay with a wonderful Gujarati Jain family who are very active within the North Indian diaspora community in Madurai. The focus of the semester was the month-long Independent Study period that we spent the first two months preparing for. During this period, we each conducted a detailed ethnographic research project on some part of Madurai, resulting in a 20+ page paper. Through connections provided by my host-family, I was able to become involved with the Madurai North Indian Welfare Association, a recently formed group which promotes North Indian culture and collaborates on service projects. Its first service project was the creation of a goshala (cow home), an institution with a long history of traditions in the North, outside of the city one year previous. Through ten formal interviews, many conversations, and participant-observer fieldwork, I investigated the various motivations that existed among stakeholders of the goshala. I am planning to submit this paper to the Animals and Society Institute’s annual undergraduate prize competition for best paper in the field of Human-Animal Studies. The winning paper is published in the journal Society & Animals.
In addition to my studies and research this semester, I spent much time corresponding and planning with supporters of my summer Lumen fieldwork, including a weekend trip to Gujarat to have face-to-face meetings. Once my semester officially ended on April 14, I traveled to Ahmedabad, Gujarat to begin my research period. So far, I have worked in Ahmedabad, Vadodara, and Rajkot, as well as their surrounding areas. My future plans include sites in Kutch (a desert region of Gujarat which serves as part of India’s border with Pakistan), several rural areas around the center of the Gujarat, and Mumbai. For this work, I visit and get involved with Jain-affiliated organizations which are working with animal issues, and I discuss related topics and have formal interviews with their members and trustees. These organizations include animal sanctuaries, hospitals, mobile clinics, etc.
During the celebration for the Madurai goshala’s one-year anniversary, at the behest of her hovering parents, a girl offers dried grass to the beautified cows.
At a Jain panjrapole outside of Ahmedabad, the cows and buffaloes hungrily stampede into the main paddock after being allowed back for lunch.
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