In the second half of the 19th century, the Raj sponsored cattle competitions across India to educate ryots in ‘responsible’ bovine husbandry practices to mitigate famine. Photographs of these competitions, which demonstrate the fraught convergence of economic liberalism and colonial humanitarianism, aimed to constitute a model ryot of measurable self-improvement even as they reveal traces of bovine-peasant relationships that unsettle this newly-conceived colonial subject.
Liza Oliver is Associate Professor of Art at Wellesley College. Her research is focused on 18th- and 19th-century Europe and South Asia, colonialism, Indian Ocean trade, and intersections of art and science.
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