David Buchan Lecture

David Buchan Lecture


When Humans, Animals, and Plants Talk to Each Other

Professor Sadhana Naithani

Thursday, 16 November 2023

6.30pm, Sir Duncan Rice Library, 7th Floor, Meeting Room 1

Book your place at elphinstone@abdn.ac.uk

Can folklore provide a way of creating a healthier planet? We live in a world of deep environmental and ecological crises. As we struggle to understand how to heal the damaged earth, we realise that we know its residents, geographic landscapes, and wide oceans more through stories than experience. The age-old tales, proverbs, and songs encapsulated as folklore have not only entertained humanity, but have provided a way of relating with nature. This lecture shows how folklore deals with nature, animals, and natural phenomena. Folklore’s imaginative resolutions to contemporary crises are surprisingly in tandem with science and demonstrate why folklore is an integral subject of interdisciplinary study.

Sadhana Naithani is professor of literature and folklore at the Centre of German Studies, and Coordinator of Folklore Unit at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi. She is the current president of the International Society for Folk Narrative Research and a Fellow of the American Folklore Society. She has been awarded Fellowships by the German Academic Exchange Service, the British Council and in 2022-23, she was a Fulbright Visiting Professor in University of California, Berkley. Her research interests cover European and Indian folklore and her work on colonialism and folklore is considered pioneering. She is the author of In Quest of Indian Folktales (2006), The Story Time of the British Empire (2010), Folklore Theory in Postwar Germany (2014), and Folklore in Baltic History. Resistance and Resurgence (2019). More recently, she has made three ethnographic films on contemporary German villages and folktales, and been a consultant on several documentary films on Indian folklore. She writes fiction too, and her novella, titled Elephantine, published in UK in 2016 is the story of a female elephant caught in the monumental history of British India. Sadhana Naithani is seriously concerned with the situation of wild animals across the world, some of who are threatened with mass extinction. This is what guides her current research and the subject of her forthcoming book are the colonial British writings on Indian wild life.


The David Buchan Lecture was launched in 2015 to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the founding of the Elphinstone Institute. The lecture is in memory of the influential ballad and contemporary legend scholar who was also the Institute's first appointed director. This annual event places Ethnology and Folklore firmly in the University calendar and appeals to a wide audience across the University as well as to the general public.