Naisargi N. Dave

Naisargi N. Dave

Naisargi N. Dave, Ph.D. (University of Michigan, 2006)
Associate Professor, St. George Campus

(416) 978-6050
Office: AP 206

Research Keywords: Animal studies, extraordinary ethics, affect & the senses, queer & feminist theory, imagination & expression, death & violence, anthropology & philosophy, friendship & intimacies.

Research Region: India

Research Bio

My research concerns emergent forms of politics and relationality in contemporary urban India. My 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. I argue, 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. My 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 my projects, I have an interest in practices of ethnographic expression, and in the work of narrative. I teach courses on animality, the “otherwise,” literary anthropology, sports, nature, friendship, queer anthropology, affect, & anthropological theory. On campus, I am affiliated with the Centre for South Asian Studies, and serve on the steering committee of the Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies.

“Dave” is pronounced Davé.



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 Fieldwork: Critical 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.

2010. “To Render Real the Imagined: An Ethnographic History of Lesbian Community in India.” In Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 35(3): 595-619.

2008.  “Between Queer Ethics and Sexual Morality.” In The Sarai Reader 07: Frontiers,  Monica Narula et al, eds. Pp. 387-395. New Delhi: Centre for Studies in Developing Societies. Reprinted in Ordinary Ethics: Anthropology, Language and Action, 2010, ed. Michael Lambek. New York: Fordham University Press.

Book Reviews & Other Essays

2018. What it Feels Like to Be Free: The Tense of Justice. Forum on “Justice,” Cultural Anthropology.

2015. What Animals Teach Us About Politics. By Brian Massumi. Somatosphere.

2015. Queer Respites. Forum on “Queer Futures,” Cultural Anthropology.

2015. Naisargi N. Dave and Tom Boellstorff. Introduction: The Production and Reproduction of Queer Anthropology. Forum on “Queer Futures,” Cultural Anthropology online.

2014. Deviations. By Gayle Rubin. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 20(1):176-177.

2008.  “Impossible Desires: Queer Diasporas and South Asian Public Cultures. By Gayatri Gopinath.” American Ethnologist 35(4): 4090-4094.


Precarity: Interview with Naisargi Dave, Hayder Al-Mohammad, Kathleen Millar, Bruce O’Neill, & Kathleen Stewart. With Jennifer Shaw & Darren Byler for Cultural Anthropology.

The Ethnography of Activism: A Conversation with Naisargi Dave.

The Ethnography of Activism: The Satya Interview with Naisargi Dave.

Naisargi Dave on Animal Rights Activism in India, with Grant Jan Otsuki, for the Anthropod Podcast at Cultural Anthropology.

Witness, with Hemanjini Gupta for Cultural Anthropology.

Graduate Students

Mathew Gagne

Kevin Nixon

Elliott Tilleczek

George Mantzios

Celeste Pang

Maya El Helou

Wesley Brunson

Noha Fikry