American Modernisers and the Cow Question in Colonial and Nationalist India

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The cattle modernisation sought by American missionaries in colonial North India advanced a productivist argument around the efficiency of cattle and their contribution to agriculture. On the face of it, by criticising the excessive supply of cattle in North India, this position went against the core preservationist concerns of the cow protectionists. But in reality, these modernisers struck a range of correlations with colonial and nationalist positions on the management of livestock and, ironically, even some limited space with the cow protectionists in treating India’s cattle as productive beings that were beneficial to the nation. These American prescriptions were stable constructs that became visible once again in the American food aid apparatus in India after Independence and shared overlapping concerns with ongoing cattle productivity debates in India. This paper illuminates the overlaps between the advocacy of the multiple constituents and a recurrence of certain patterns of contestation that were constitutive of the very paradigm of agrarian modernisation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)185-200
Number of pages16
JournalSouth Asia: Journal of South Asia Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science


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