Naisargi N. Dave

Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology
Centre for South Asian Studies at the Asian Institute




Room AP 206, 19 Russell Street


Professor Dave’s research concerns emergent forms of politics and relationality in contemporary urban India. Her first book, Queer Activism in India: A Story in the Anthropology of Ethics (Duke 2012) examines the relationship between queer desires and queer political formations. Dave argues, in short, that activism is an ethical practice comprised of critique, invention, and creative relational practice. Queer Activism was awarded the 2013 Ruth Benedict Prize by the Association for Queer Anthropology. Her second book project, titled (for now) The Social Skin: Humans and Animals in India, is a study of human-animal relationality in Indian cities including Delhi, Mumbai, and Hyderabad. The book is comprised of ten short chapters, each set within a unique sensorium and addressing a specific ethical question regarding how human and non-human animals live and die in a shared world. These questions are addressed ethnographically, through an attention to the everyday life of animals, activists, farmers, transporters, and of cities themselves. Among the questions the book attempts to answer are: How is activism exhausted? How do we become other? Can indifference be the basis for an ethical engagement with the world? Does that which is inevitable cease to matter? Across her projects, Dave has an interest in practices of ethnographic expression, and in the work of narrative. She teaches courses on animality, the “otherwise,” literary anthropology, sports, nature, friendship, queer anthropology, affect, & anthropological theory. Prof. Dave is affiliated with the Centre for South Asian Studies, and serves on the steering committee of the Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies.

“Dave” is pronounced Davé

research interests

Politics and relationality in contemporary urban India
Animality and critiques of humanism
Affect and ethics
Sexuality and gender


Ph D. University of Michigan (2006)
M.A. University of Michigan (2000)
B.A. University of Georgia (1998)

selected publications


In progress. The Social Skin: Humans & Animals in India.

2012. Queer Activism in India: A Story in the Anthropology of Ethics. Durham: Duke University Press. (South Asia edition published in 2016, New Delhi: Zubaan)

Articles & Chapters

In Preparation. Levinas Among Human & Nonhuman Wanderers in India. For inclusion in Philosophy on FieldworkCritical Introductions to Theory and Analysis in Anthropological Practice, Thomas Schwarz Wentzer and Nils Bubandt, eds. Bloomsbury Press.

2019. Kamadhenu’s Last Stand: On Animal Refusal to Work. In How Nature Works: Rethinking Labor on a Troubled Planet, Sarah Besky and Alex Blanchette, eds. University of New Mexico Press.

2019. Narcissus. In Anthropocene Unseen: A Lexicon, Anand Pandian and Cymene Howe, eds. Punctum Books.

2019. The Tyranny of Consistency. In Messy Eating: Conversations on Animals as Food, Samantha King, et al, eds. Fordham University Press.

2017. Something, Everything, Nothing; or, Cows, Dogs, and Maggots . Social Text 35 (1): 35-57. 

2017. Witness: Humans, Animals, and the Politics of Becoming. In Unfinished: The Anthropology of Becoming, Joao Biehl and Peter Locke, eds. Duke University Press.

2015. Brighupati Singh & Naisargi Dave. On the Killing and Killability of Animals: Nonmoral Thoughts for the Anthropology of Ethics. Comparative Studies in South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East 35(2): 232-245.

2014. Witness: Humans, Animals, and the Politics of Becoming. Cultural Anthropology 29(3): 433-456. Reprinted, with minor edits, in Unfinished (2017).

2014. Death and Family: Queer Archives of the Space Between. In Leela Fernandes (ed.), The Handbook on Gender in South Asia.  London: Routledge.

2011. Indian and Lesbian and What Came Next: Affect, Commensuration, and Queer Emergences. American Ethnologist 38 (4): 650-665.

2011. “Abundance and Loss: Queer Intimacies in South Asia.” Feminist Studies 37(1): 1-15.

2011. Activism as Ethical Practice: Queer Politics in Contemporary India.” Cultural Dynamics. 23(1): 3-20.

2011. “Ordering Justice, Fixing Dreams: An Ethnography of Queer Legal Activism.” In Law Like Love: Queer Perspectives on Law in India. Arvind Narrain and Alok Gupta, editors. Pp. 25-42. New Delhi: Yoda Press.


Animality: The Social Anthropology of Humans and Animals
Anthropology of Affect
Contemporary Ethnography of South Asia
Literary Anthropology
Queer Ethnography
Sports and Play
Anthropology of the Otherwise




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