I had returned home from three weeks of Anaconda research in the Peruvian Amazon shortly after participating in a King Cobra Bionomics workshop in the Western Ghats of India. Anaconda heads brought luck and the King Cobra was revered as God: through hunting and reverence, these multispecies relationships formed key parts of identities giving rise to religious iconographies, festivities, and incentives for conservation, sustaining life for multiple species. Anthropologists have explored multispecies relatedness with mammals, plants, and other charismatic critters. But how does this relatedness extend to amphibians and reptiles, animals related through hunting, reverence, and ecological coexistence? In Nagaland, India, frog hunting lies at the intersection of ecosystems, cultural identities, and sovereignty. These frogs are wild caught from paddy fields and are constitutive parts of the region’s food history, culture and economy. Besides being considered delicious, frogs are also believed to have healing qualities. Through hunting, humans and frogs are entangled in an ecosystem that enables food and cultural sovereignty, which are under threat from climate change and a green-colonialism that disregards Indigenous environmental management. Naga communities live at a tipping point for the extinction of species and different ways of being. How does hunting create possibilities for both humans and frogs? What politics and socialities do these entanglements formed through hunting entail?
I propose to build on my research and continue working with communities in Nagaland, a site of deep human-nature relatedness and rich traditional ecological knowledge (TEK). The Lothas follow food and cultural systems that depend on the landscapes and environment around them, forming intricate natural and social ecologies. Within the broader context of climate change, biodiversity loss, and the global amphibian crisis, these nature-dependent ecologies and the identities they form are endangered. Looking at frog hunting as a specific multispecies interaction will be a case study in the environmental anthropology of these phenomena, discussing the intersecting ecosystems, identities, and entanglements in these times characterized by rapid ecological changes. Frog hunting could paradoxically help us conserve the bioindicator species, consequently preserving the broader cultural and natural ecosystems. I will use multispecies theories and multimodal methods to study human-frog entanglements through hunting, food, and ritual. I plan to study the anuran species in the region to understand their bionomics better, enabling effective conservation of these entanglements, landscapes, and species.
Primary fieldwork for this project is based in the villages of Phiro and Wokha in Wokha District, Nagaland.