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Symposium on Human Elephant Relations in South Asia

Human-Elephant Relations in South Asia: A Multidisciplinary Symposium

Latest News (21 March)- The Symposium has now expanded to include papers on captive elephant management in Southeast Asia, elephants in zoos, and cloning extinct woolly mammoths. The University of Canterbury has issued a press release (see: and it is already receiving further coverage)

Chitwan Elephants (small)


May 7 and 8 2013, School of Social and Political Sciences (SAPS), and the New Zealand South Asia Center (NZSAC), University of Canterbury

Convenors: Dr. Piers Locke (piers dot locke at canterbury dot ac dot nz) and Dr. Jane Buckingham (jane dot buckingham at canterbury dot ac dot nz)

The relationship between humans and elephants in South Asia is especially complex, multidimensional, and longstanding. Variously representing weapons of war, emblems of prestige, symbols of divinity, objects of entertainment, icons of conservation, commodities for exchange, vehicles for labour, and more, the elephant is an animal entangled with human enterprises of power, wealth, worship, pleasure, and preservation. The human-elephant nexus encompasses a diversity of meanings, purposes, and concerns through time and space. As a result, it is a relationship explored across a disparate mix of disciplines, reflecting a variety of interests and approaches. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that the human-elephant relationship does not merely afford accounts from a multitude of disciplinary perspectives, but that its manifold complexity encourages interdisciplinary engagement. As more work emerges traversing and challenging disciplinary boundaries, the need for an integrated discursive space becomes ever more apparent. Under the rubric of ethnoelephantology, this symposium is dedicated to advancing discussion by taking a symmetrical approach to the analysis of human and elephant, exploring the social, historical, and ecological mutualities of these companion species.

see also:


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