“Chasing Urban Crows in India: A Fool’s Errand to Mend an Environmental Crisis? ”
Paul R. Greenough is Emeritus Professor of Modern Indian History and of Community and Behavioral Health at the University of Iowa. He was the Director of the University’s South Asian Studies Program and co-director of the Global Health Studies Program. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Columbia University and his PhD from the University of Chicago. His recent research concerns themes in India’s environmental history and the history of public health and the introduction of field epidemiology into the post-colonial world. Among other works he is the author of Prosperity and Misery in Modern Bengal: the Famine of 1943 (1982; reprint edition 2017; Bengali edition 1997) and co-editor of three collections: Nature in the Global South: Environmental Projects in South and Southeast Asia (2003), Against Stigma: Global Studies in Caste and Race (2009), and The Politics of Vaccination: A Global History (2017). Professor Greenough is a Senior Fulbright-Nehru Fellow attached to the Department of History of Jadavpur University.
The house crows of India, as the name suggests, live side by side with humans in towns and cities. They mainly survive by eating left-over food wastes (garbage). They are highly intelligent birds and occupy a middle position between wild nature and human culture; they show up prominently in Indian art, religion, literature and folklore. From ancient times the cawing of crows has been India’s sound-track. Nowadays their voice is fainter because of intense environmental hazards, and crow populations in larger Indian cities are declining. At the same time Indian house crows have been spreading to other countries (for example, a breeding colony was established in Florida only in 2015). This talk recaps a recent research trip he made to study house crows in India and the challenges he faces writing about their saga.