Reorienting rabies research and practice: Lessons from India

Srinivasan, K., Kurz, T., Kuttava, P., and Pearson, C.
Palgrave Communications
Publication date

In this article, we reflect on the institutional and everyday realities of people-street dog relations in India to develop a case for decolonised approaches to rabies and other zoonoses. Dog-mediated rabies in Asia and Africa continues be a major concern in transnational public health agendas despite extensive research and knowledge on its prevention. In India, which carries 35% of the global rabies burden and has large street dog populations, One Health-oriented dog population management programmes have been central to the control of this zoonotic disease. Yet, rabies continues to be a significant problem in the country. In this article, we address this impasse in rabies research and practice through investigations of interactions between people, policy, and street dogs. Drawing primarily on field and archival research in Chennai city, we track how street dogs are perceived by people, explore how these animals have come into interface with (public) health concerns over time, and examine the biosocial conditions that frame people-dog conflict (and thereby rabies). These analyses create a picture of the multidimensional character of people-dog relations to offer new insights on why One Health-oriented rabies initiatives have not borne out their full promise. In effect, the article makes a case for a shift in public health orientations—away from intervening on these animals as vectors to be managed, and towards enabling multispecies habitats. This, we argue, requires the decolonisation of approaches to dog-mediated rabies, and expanded conceptions of ‘healthy more-than-human publics’. In conclusion, the article chalks out broader implications for public health approaches to zoonoses in a world marked by mutual risk and vulnerability that cuts across human and nonhuman animals.


Srinivasan, K., Kurz, T., Kuttava, P., and Pearson, C., “Reorienting rabies research and practice: Lessons from India,” Palgrave Communications 5, 152 (2019) doi:10.1057/s41599-019-0358-y