ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Environmental Humanities as a Way Forward

Existing environmental discourses in India are examined and a possible way forward is suggested to rethink environmental issues and its pedagogical approaches in India. To that end, environmental humanities is fast emerging as an interdisciplinary framework for understanding humans’ and non-humans’ entanglements with a special emphasis towards centring the ecological epistemologies framed by various social groups who are marginalised in the rigid social structures of society.

How do we perceive the country’s environmental discourse so far? Ever since India’s existence as an independent nation or even before, the notion of a nation is often defined through aspects of nature, ecology, or a sense of place. Two sets of dominant narratives of environmental discourses stand out here. First, the nation is seen as a unitary sense of place where nature is defined as an ecological reality that is universal to the citizens. Here, both the use of nature and its restriction are justified through a nationalistic pride or “ecological nationalism” (Cederlof and Sivaramakrishnan 2007). One would like to remember the eloquent writings of Mahesh Rangarajan (2009) as well as Cederlof and Sivaramakrishnan (2007) to fathom the relationships between nation and ecology. Second, beyond this fallacy of a unitary sense of nation or nationalism, there reside multiple ways of understanding nationalism within India, whereby there is a sense of affiliation to a place as a piece of land, with peoples and cultural identities. These forms of belongingness are entangled in varied notions about ecology. In this article, environmental discourses in India and the ways to re-examine our relations with our environment are reflected upon.

The overwhelming and grim situation of the current ecological crises is staring at us, which is predominantly an outcome of the technocratic and extractivist model of progress. India’s development policies and the nexus of state and neo-liberal establishments have been the primary drivers of these crises. The belief that science can provide all the solutions has been criticised, and now we see a greater interest in the disciplines of humanities and social sciences. In this article, we shift our focus away from the Western science-based knowledge to bring locally embedded “indigenous epistemologies” and “humanities-oriented sciences” to appeal for new ways of thinking about the environment and our relations with the world. However, we must also remain alert against the narratives created by the nationalist project for “unified” knowledge such as the Indian Knowledge Systems (IKS). As G N Devy (2023) warns us,

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