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ISBN: PB: 9780226771922

ISBN: HB: 9780226771892

University of Chicago Press

May 2021

224 pp.

22.8x15.2 cm

16 halftones



Crooked Cats

Beastly Encounters in the Anthropocene

How do humans live near big cats – tigers, leopards, and lions – that may or may not be predatory? Though they are popularly known as "man eaters", this new book by anthropologist Nayanika Mathur reframes them as cats that have gone off the straight path to become "crooked". Her firsthand account of living with crooked cats in India lays bare the peculiar atmosphere of terror these encounters create, reinforced by rumors, anger, humor, myths, conspiracy theories, and the making of "celebrity" cats. There are various theories of why and how a big cat turns to eating people, and Mathur lays out the dominant ideas offered on the basis of fifteen years of research in India. These vary from the effects of climate change and habitat loss to history and politics. There is no firm explanation for why specific big cats turn on humans, even from the scientists who study animal behavior. Detailing the beastly tales emerging from the uncertainty created by the presence and actions of crooked cats, this book offers startling new insights into both the governance of nonhumans and their deep entanglements with humans. Beautifully detailed in its portrayal of India's places, people, and animals, Crooked Cats sheds light on how we understand nonhuman animals, the hidden impacts of the climate crisis, and changing human-nonhuman relations in the Anthropocene.

About the Author

Nayanika Mathur is associate professor in anthropology and South Asian studies as well as Fellow of Wolfson College at the University of Oxford. She is the author of "Paper Tiger: Law, Bureaucracy and the Developmental State in Himalayan India".