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To Abandon The Colonial Animal: Race, Animals, And The Feral Child In Kiplings Mowgli Stories

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Chapter Summary

Like animals, feral children are harnessed to specific cultural projects; one such is Rudyard Kipling's Mowgli tales. Effectively eliminating all traces of the animality that threatened the nature of humanity as well as the traces of the native humanity that resisted colonial practices, Kipling produced the ideal native of colonial desire. The Mowgli stories were written in the wake of both the Indian rebellion of 1857 and Darwin's work on evolution; far from being a harmless fable, Kipling's story attempts to invoke the India that he nostalgically called home, one in which hierarchies of race and species operate as natural laws even as they are reformulated to account for political and scientific exigencies. Mowgli's non-subversive transgression of animal-human boundaries undoes the threat of species blurring presented by feral children and allows Kipling to deploy Mowgli's mythical yet (or perhaps therefore) natural animality in the service of the empire.

Keywords: animality; colonial practices; feral children; Mowgli tales; race; Rudyard Kipling



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