“Cow is a Mother, Mothers Can Do Anything for Their Children!”
Gaushalas as Landscapes of Anthropatriarchy and Hindu Patriarchy
This paper argues that gaushalas, or cow shelters, in India are mobilized as sites of Hindutva or Hindu ultranationalism, where it is a “vulnerable” Hindu Indian nation – or the “Hindu mother cow” as Mother India – who needs “sanctuary” from predatory Muslim males. Gaushalas are rendered spaces of (re)production of cows as political, religious, and economic capital, and sustained by the combined and compatible narratives of “anthropatriarchy” and Hindu patriarchy. Anthropatriarchy is framed as the human enactment of gendered oppressions upon animal bodies, and is crucial to sustaining all animal agriculture. Hindu patriarchy refers to the instrumentalization of female and feminized bodies (women, cows, “Mother India”) as “mothers” and cultural guardians of a “pure” Hindu civilization. Both patriarchies commodify bovine motherhood and lactation, which this paper frames as a feminist issue. Through empirical research, this paper demonstrates that gaushalas generally function as spaces of exploitation, incarceration, and gendered violence for the animals. The paper broadens posthumanist feminist theory to illustrate how bovine bodies, akin to women’s bodies, are mobilized as productive, reproductive, and symbolic capital to advance Hindu extremism and ultranationalism. It subjectifies animal bodies as landscapes of nation-(un)making using ecofeminism and its subfield of vegan feminism.
Yamini Narayanan is Senior Lecturer in International and Community Development at Deakin University, Melbourne. Her work is focussed on two major themes: the nexus between animals and urban planning in India; and the implications of India’s cow protectionism discourse, politics and legislations, for the cows and indeed, the animal advocacy movement in India itself. Her research is supported by two Australian Research Council grants. Her work combines scholarship and advocacy, and she is Coopted Member of the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) [Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change, Government of India]. Yamini has served as the founding co-convenor of the ‘Animals and Sociology’ thematic group at TASA, and is founding co-convenor of the Deakin Critical Animal Studies Network. She is a lifelong Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, an honour that is conferred through nomination or invitation only. Her forthcoming book, contracted to Oxford University Press, will offer one of the first empirical critiques of India’s cow protectionism discourse and politics from a critical animal studies standpoint, examining bovine realities in both sites of production and protection.