News & Events

The NLS Public Lecture Series | Nature in Balance? State, Society, and Ecology in Independent India


Room No. 301, 2nd Floor, Old Academic Block, NLSIU



Thursday, January 12, 2023, 5:00 pm

We invite you to this week’s Public Lecture featuring guest speaker Prof. Mahesh Rangarajan who will be delivering a talk titled, “Nature in Balance? State, Society, and Ecology in Independent India”.

About the Speaker

Mahesh Rangarajan is Professor of Environmental Studies and History at Ashoka University, Sonipat, Haryana. Prior to this, he was Professor of Modern Indian History at the University of Delhi.  He has also taught at Cornell University, Jadavpur University, and the National Center for Biological Sciences, Bengaluru.  Prof. Rangarajan served as Director of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi, from 2011 to 2015 and as the VC of Krea University in 2021- 22.  He is the author of Nature and Nation (2015), Nature Without Borders (2014), and India’s Wildlife History (2001).  He has also co- authored  People, Parks and Wildlife: Towards Co-existence (2000). His coedited works are The Oxford Anthology of Indian Wildlife in 2 volumes (1999), Battles over Nature (2003), Making Conservation work (2007), Environmental History as if Nature Existed (2010), Shifting Ground (2014), Nature without Borders (2014) , At Nature’s Edge (2018). His new book, Nature Contested is currently in press. Mahesh did his BA from Delhi University; he holds an MA and DPhil from the University of Oxford where he was a Rhodes Scholar. In 2021 he was elected Foreign Member of the American Historical Association, the fourth Indian to be named so.


We live in epochal times not only in political or economic but also ecological sense. 75 years after independence, India is a political democracy with an economy growing at 4.5 per cent for over four decades. But along with challenges of deprivation and inequality are environmental issues.  The latter relate not only to species extinction or climate change , air, and water contamination or mangrove loss but to a larger question. It may be summarised as how far a peace with nature can underpin societal challenges. A safe, livable, and habitable ecosystem that includes not only humans but other life forms is as elusive as it is vital. India’s imperial legacy as well as specific development choices in the last century mean there is no clean slate to start on. Yet, as the talk hopes to show, there are ways to draw on past debates and initiatives to pose questions afresh.

The past cannot offer any easy cut and paste lessons. But it can help ask how and why we got here and inform us on where to go and how. A life of material and human dignity for all is much a question of ecological as of the human sciences. What better place to begin than an informed view of how nature’s pasts shaped the present?