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Unmasking the Cosmopolitan Tiger

Annu Jalais

The global 'cosmopolitan' tiger, as opposed to the local 'Sundarbans tiger', has become the rallying point for urbanites' concerns for wildlife protection globally. In this piece, I look at two different representations of tigers in recent history, one colonial and the other national. This so as to highlight how representations, even of wild animals, are ultimately linked to power. This leads me to argue how today's Western-dominated ideas about tigers (a view I call 'cosmopolitan') ultimately act to the detriment of 'other' tigers because these do not allow for an engagement with alternative ways of understanding animals and wildlife. Such images, I try to show using Descola's arguments about nature and understandings of it, in turn perpetrates the coercive and unequal relationship between, in this case, those who partake of the 'cosmopolitan' tiger view versus those who live with 'wild' tigers.