The translocation of captured monkeys from lowlands to rural hill areas in the Central Himalayan state of Uttarakhand has become an incendiary social and political issue over the last five years. This essay asks what the recent outpouring of intense emotions and arguments around the issue of monkey translocation reveals about notions of belonging in this region. It contends that the reason there is such anxious public discourse around what is called the “monkey menace” is that it has dovetailed with a regional politics of identity and cultural meaning. What is at stake is the question of who belongs and what it means to belong in terms of moral and material access to resources. This essay further suggests that monkeys — the nonhuman actors in this story — play an important part in shaping the nature of these conversations about cultural meaning and belonging. Recognizing their vibrant semiotic-material presence in this landscape, this essay argues that the outsider monkey discourse has such resonance in this region precisely because the situated bodies of monkeys themselves play an important part in determining the nature of ongoing struggles over belonging and identity.

You do not currently have access to this content.