Archives at the National Centre for Biological Sciences
Obaid Siddiqi Lectures
Annual lectures delivered by the Obaid Siddiqi Chair in the History and Culture of Science at the Archives at NCBS. 
Difficult Dialogues: Speaking Science to Conservation in India
MD Madhusudan
Obaid Siddiqi Chair, Archives at NCBS
Saturday, July 30 2022, 5 PM
NIMHANS: Seminar Hall, MV Govindaswamy Centre
Free and open to the public
Made possible with generous support from TNQ Technologies.
Independent India’s conservation laws and policies grew out of aesthetic and ethical concerns, mostly of its elite, about declining wildlife and disappearing habitats. What was holding back conservation, it appeared then, was a lack of intent, rather than a deficit of knowledge. In the following years, India generated a conservation impulse that was guided more by pragmatism, administrative imagination and a home-grown empiricism of its foresters, than by the situated knowledge of communities living in proximity with nature, or by the principles of formal science through which nature and society were being understood by scholars. 
Even as conservation science grew and matured in India, there was little room for it within the formal structures and processes of conservation policy and practice. For five decades, the relationship has remained fraught: knowledge in general, and science in particular, is welcomed when it explains or vindicates the state’s dominant paradigms of conservation practice, and shunned when it offers critique, asks questions, or throws challenges. 
In this talk, I trace the many tensions between science and practice in conservation, and examine how they have, in turn, impacted our stewardship of wild species and habitats in India. 
MD Madhusudan is a conservation scientist, who, for over two decades, has studied the interface between people and large wild animals, trained students, published papers, worked with individuals and collectives to mobilize conservation action, and participated in the making of policies striving to reconcile the needs of wildlife and of humans. Along the way, he helped establish, grow and manage Nature Conservation Foundation, a nonprofit that strives for knowledge-based and socially-responsible nature conservation across India. Madhu is currently the Obaid Siddiqi Chair in the History and Culture of Science at NCBS, working on a couple of projects that take a historical view of the science and practice of nature conservation in India.