Home > English > News > Publications > Book

Composing Worlds with Elephants - Interdisciplinary Dialogues


CouvertureEdited by Nicolas Lainé, Paul G. Keil and Khatijah Rahmat
IRD Éditions
Octobre 2023, 346 p.
ISBN : 9782709929936


Read the book


Composing Worlds with Elephants is an interdisciplinary dialogue exploring the historical, social, and ecological entanglement of humans and elephants, a thousands of years old interspecies connection that is multi-dimensional, ambivalent, and always changing.

Focusing largely on elephants and peoples across Asia, the research in this volume addresses key issues in the study of their relationship including : dimensions of co-existence, cultures of elephant husbandry, and animal agency. Chapters expand how we conceptualize and study elephants, offering ideas that might also help us live better with these endangered animals. Academic texts are supported by visual contributions from three acclaimed guest artists, original visions that enrich our understanding of human-elephant worlds.

Composing Worlds with Elephants is of value to researchers of human-animal relations across the humanities, social and natural sciences, as well as conservationists and an engaged public interested in exploring new perspectives on humanity’s connection with these charismatic giants.



Part 1 - Wild relations, wild individuals, wild affects

  • Political and affective ecologies of human-elephant relations
  • Affective ecologies in Sri Lanka
  • The outliers
  • The implications of being a “problem” elephant 
  • “Lantana Elephants” 

Part 2 - Living with elephants - From deep history to future imaginaries

  • War elephants and forest people 
  • Tusks of wisdom
  • From the mouth of the mahout
  • Mahuto-futurism
  • My photographic experience with elephants and their mahouts in Laos

Part 3 - Living with elephants - Mahoutship

  • Laotian mahouts and elephants
  • Nāgādhyakshaçaritha
  • Mahout-elephant relationships
  • Musth as a biosocial event
  • Cemetery : multispecies intimacies and extinction

Part 4 - Thinking with elephants

  • Time and the elephant
  • Elephant-farmer coexistence
  • How elephants are bridging epistemological boundaries
  • Widening the lens
2 November 2023