Title: Learning from the Kadars: How Children’s Literature Can Productively Navigate the Anthropocene
Abstract: Indigenous knowledge can provide crucial guidance towards a more balanced relationship between humans, more-than-humans and nature in the Anthropocene. However, in navigating this we cannot abandon the science of nature conservation and ecology. In shifting towards biocentrism, we cannot abandon anthropocentrism entirely. In protecting the rights of nature we cannot abandon the rights of tribal people. How do we teach children about such a complex world view? An excellent and unprecedented example of combining these are Speaking to an elephant and other tales from the Kadars and Walking is A Way of Knowing both authored by Manish Chandi and Madhuri Ramesh and illustrated by Matthew Frame. The Kadar community hold particularly valuable indigenous knowledge with regards to nature conservation and the preservation of biodiversity as they live in harmony with the forests of Kerala, India. More-than-humans and humans relation to them play an integral role in these as the tale goes the Kadars were destined to live in harmony with animals and the forest. These two children’s books walk a fine line between traditional science and indigenous knowledge, anthropocentrism and biocentrism as well as apolitical documentation and political activism. In the paragraphs that follow I will show how authors Manish Chandi and Madhuri Ramesh as well as illustrator Matthew Frame managed this difficult balancing act in both the narratives and illustrations, and how they did so productively.
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Bio: Vera Verboom is a young independent researcher who finished a Master’s programme in Art Studies from the University of Amsterdam. In this programme she focused on children’s culture, literature and book illustration throughout history using different perspectives from political science, gender studies and sociology. She wrote her thesis on early-Soviet children’s book illustration and the digitalisation thereof. Currently her primary field of study is Indian children’s literature and book illustration.