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EVS Colloquium 2020-21

Title: Operationalising OneHealth Science in India to Combat Emerging Zoonoses   

Speaker: Dr. Abi Tamim Vanak

Convener, Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) 

Date: Wednesday, 7 October 2020, 1.30-2.30 pm 

Abstract:  The combination of high biodiversity, human population density, and close proximity with domestic and wild animals makes India highly vulnerable to the threat of emerging and re-emerging zoonotic diseases. A OneHealth approach to surveillance, preparedness and control has been advocated for effectively tackling these threats. However, given the historic, “siloed” nature of research and institutions in India, there have been multiple challenges to effectively operationalise OneHealth research. Here, I outline two examples of integrated OneHealth research that have helped generate novel insights in to disease dynamics for rabies and Kyasanur forest disease in India, and highlight how this can be a useful template to operationalise OneHealth research in India. Finally, I will showcase a new National initiative that will provide critical funding for team science and OneHealth surveillance systems in India.

Short Bio: Dr. Abi Tamim Vanak is a Senior Fellow (Associate Professor), and Convener of the Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation with the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) . He is also a Fellow of the DBT/Wellcome Trust Clinical and Public Health Program. His research areas include animal movement ecology, disease ecology, OneHealth, savanna ecosystems, invasive species and wildlife in human-dominated systems. Much of his research work focuses on the outcome of interactions between species at the interface of humans, domestic animals and wildlife in semi-arid savannas and agro-ecosystems. He also studies dynamics of rabies transmission in multi-host systems and the role of small and medium mammals in the transmission dynamics of Kyasanur forest disease. Abi Vanak has a Master’s in Wildlife Biology from the Wildlife Institute of India and a Ph. D. in Wildlife Science from the University of Missouri. 

Title: Are Environmental Histories of South Asia Still Possible in the Epoch of the Anthropocene?

Speaker – Rohan D’Souza
Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies
Kyoto University

Chair: Amita Baviskar, Ashoka University

Abstract: Most writings on the environmental histories of South Asia have been informed by either of two dominant frameworks. The first ─ widely called the ‘colonial watershed thesis’ ─ claimed that British colonialism profoundly undermined the ecological harmony that previously characterized social organization in South Asia. In contrast, advocates for the ‘continuities-with-change’ approach argued that, while the ‘pace of change’ was undoubtedly ‘rapid and epochal’, radical environmental transitions were not entirely new to the Indian subcontinent, pointing to the need for long term histories about human-nature relationships.

Whilst these two dominant frameworks have generated a rich and productive scholarship, recent concerns about climate change urge us to reconsider whether such conventional plot lines for environmental histories on South Asia are still possible.

In particular, I discuss how notions of the ‘Anthropocene’ have begun to unsettle some of the assumptions that characterized earlier writings in environmental history. Notably, concepts such as the ‘Great Acceleration’ and Earth Systems Sciences now urge us to reconsider periodization and emphasise threats at the planetary scale. Will saving the planet require us to obscure and side step local and regional histories about South Asia’s experience with colonial resource extraction and environmental changes brought on by European modernity? Will the task of ‘saving the future’ via unequal limits on carbon access turn the present into a hostage of the future? Can environmental histories of South Asia survive the loss of the regional, the local and, above all else, the colonial in their narrative design?

Bio: Rohan D’Souza is Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies, Kyoto University. His research interests and publications cover themes in environmental history, political ecology, sustainable development and modern technology.

He is the author of Drowned and Dammed: Colonial Capitalism and Flood Control in Eastern India (2006) and has jointly edited with Deepak Kumar and Vinita Damodaran, The British Empire and the Natural World: Environmental Encounters in South Asia (2011). He has also curated and edited Environment, Technology and Development: Critical and Subversive Essays (2012) for the Economic and Political Weekly Series.

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