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Programs and abstracts

First ANHS Himalayan Studies Conference

Rethinking the Himalaya: The Indo-Tibetan Interface and Beyond
October 28-30, 2011
Olin Rice Hall
Macalester College

(This schedule is subject to change. Please refer to the final program available at the conference)

Click on the links to display abstracts.

October 28, Friday

8:30 a.m.-10:15 a.m.

Session I, Panel 1

Indigenous Peoples and Struggles over Resources in the Himalaya
Chair:  Dilli Ram Dahal, Tribhuvan University,

Emplacing Histories and Re-imagining the Nation: Place-making and the cultural politics of Dhimals' indigenous activism in Nepal (Janak Rai, University of Michigan)

In this paper, I examine the cultural politics of 'place making'- as an integral part of the indigenous rights activism of Dhimals, an indigenous group from Nepal’ eastern plains. Until a few years back, a place called Raja Rani, located on a hilltop in the eastern Nepal had no significance for many Dhimals. Now the place has become a sacred site- a place of ‘Dhimals’ origin’. Why Raja Rani, where no Dhimals currently live, acquired such a heightened sense of place for them? Based on my ethnographic fieldwork and observations of Dhimals’ indigenous activism during 2007-09, I analyze this particular 'place making' practice by locating it in the contexts of Dhimals’ historical experience of the State, their search for ethno history and the contemporary indigenous articulation of ‘autonomy’ and ‘statehood’ in Nepal. In the recent years, mainstream scholars have become increasingly criticized the indigenous peoples' claim of territoriality as "dangerous" and a way of "breaking-up the nation". Dhimals’ place-making practices, I will argue, draw our attention to the mundane ways in which indigenous communities are rediscovering and rewriting their past to envision new ways of belongings in the nation-state that promises to be more ‘inclusive’ in its re-making.
Resisting Hydropower Development in the Eastern Himalayas, India (Mabel Gergan, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

India has been under tremendous pressure to diversify its energy sources, the most environmentally viable of which has been identified as hydropower. The bulk of this potential lies in the Himalayan region. Of the two major tribal belts of India, the Central and the Himalayan, the former has been more prone to capital global penetrations. Central Indian tribes have long been engaged in struggles against large scale development. A parallel experience is now unfolding in the Himalayan region. One such struggle is of the indigenous Lepchas, also known as the 'vanishing tribe', settled in the Dzongu Reserve of North Sikkim. The Sikkim government has planned twenty-nine dams in the state, seven of which will cut through Dzongu. For several years Dzongu had been witnessing an out-migration of its youth, weakening it cultural fabric but today the most vocal group against the dams is the youth. In this paper, I analyze the cultural and political dimensions of the debate over how interests of smaller tribes are negotiated within the larger aspirations of the nation. I draw on my experiences in two Himalayan states of India: My 2008 M.A. thesis in Sikkim, and my work as a research assistant in Uttarakhand (2008-2010)

Marginalization of Indigenous Tharu Community in Common Property Resource Management: A Case Study of an Indigenous Irrigation System from the Tarai of Nepal (Laya Prasad Uprety, Tribhuvan University)

This paper demonstrates how the migration of the caste and ethnic groups from the Hills to the command area of Chhattis Mauja irrigation system in Rupandehi district of the Tarai (plains) region has marginalized the autochthonous Tharu community in managing and utilizing water for irrigation as a common property resource. ‘Water as common property’ refers to the institutional arrangements to ensure the collective action for sustained irrigation management. Under the heyday of feudalism, the Tharus had built the irrigation system with their own local initiatives. With the development of irrigation system, Tharu farmers crafted their own common property institutions for the sustained management and utilization of irrigation water to contribute to ensuring their livelihood security and access equity. The sample command area has 90 percent of the migrant households which was inhabited by only Tharus until the end of the 1930s. The influx of in-migrants began mainly due to the abundance of productive virgin land, which triggered stiff competition for the use of water because the irrigation system originally constructed for 36 villages has been expanded to 56 villages by forcing the original Tharu command area villages to be the tail-enders and replacing the traditional Tharu leadership.

Sherpa Conservation Governance in the Sagarmatha National Park and Buffer Zone, Nepal (Mingma Sherpa, University of Massachusetts-Amherst)

This paper discusses traditional conservation governance adopted by the Sherpa Community in natural resource management and governance in the Sagarmatha National Park and Buffer Zone, which is also a beyul declared by Guru Rinpoche twelve hundred years ago. I will present preliminary findings of my field research about conservation governance analyzing Sherpa traditional conservation governance, and assess findings of government implemented conservation laws, policies and plans. This will include impacts of government implemented park policies, co-managed buffer zone management regulations and community forest management regulations and assess if these government imposed conservation practices have respected the rights of (Sherpa) indigenous peoples. Have these government policies risked Sherpa cultural practices of conservation and impacted upon Sherpa identity, thereby impacting on biodiversity conservation?

Session I, Panel 2

The Darjeeling and Sikkim Himalaya, Part I
Organizer & Chair: Sarah Besky, University of Wisconsin-Madison

James Fisher’s framing of the Himalayas as an Indo-Tibetan “interface” can certainly aid us in thinking about Darjeeling and Sikkim in the Northeast Indian Himalayas. In congruence with this year’s conference theme, the panelists seek not only to call our attention to the movements of people, things, and ideas across the Himalayas, but also to understand micro-level interfaces at play in politics, plantations, and performances in Darjeeling and Sikkim. This panel brings together an international group of scholars working in Darjeeling and Sikkim. The panelists frame their discussions through varied perspectives – environmental, linguistic, political, historical, and gendered – while all aiming to understand the frictions and innovations engendered by the unique confluence of actors, histories, and environments in this “neither-fish-nor-fowl contact zone.” Despite the topical breadth of the panel, with papers ranging from women’s credit programs to linguistic diversity to cross-border trade, each of the panelists seeks to interrogate the cultural, historical, and political intersections at play in their fieldsites. The panelists aim to create a dialogue about this region, which has long existed in Western accounts as a colonial refuge, spiritual utopia, and a source of boutique tea, but has only recently become a site of in-depth ethnographic inquiry.
Situating Darjeeling and Sikkim in the Himalayas and South Asia (Sara Shneiderman - Yale University)

This paper explores the historical and contemporary status of Darjeeling and Sikkim as sub-regions on the scholarly maps of Himalayan, Tibetan and South Asian Studies. Despite the centrality of Darjeeling and Sikkim in colonial writing on the Himalayas, there has been relatively little contemporary ethnographic research in these regions of northern India until very recently. I consider the political and academic conditions that have shaped these dynamics over time, especially the strategic position of Darjeeling and Sikkim as border areas sandwiched between Nepal, China/Tibet and 'mainland' India. While popular and scholarly overviews often treat Darjeeling and Sikkim together, I highlight their different structural positions in relation to the larger Indian state.  In this sense, the paper focuses on the complexity of borders broadly conceived, both between the nation-states of Nepal, India and China, and between states like West Bengal and Sikkim within India. I explore the cultural, economic, linguistic and political contingencies that such cross-border relationships in the region entail, both for people who live and work in the region, and for scholars seeking to understand them. 

Haunting the Border and Flooding the Market: Trade and the Indo-Tibetan Interface (Tina Harris - University of Amsterdam)

Michel de Certeau’s claim that “what the map cuts up, the story cuts across” is particularly apt for the study of historical and contemporary narratives of Indo-Tibetan trade (1984: 129).  This paper explores how 20th and 21st century experiences of cross-border trade between Kalimpong, Sikkim, and Tibet intersect with two seemingly contradictory state narratives: China and India as geopolitical competitors and close-knit economic partners.  Specifically, the paper focuses on two snapshots in the recent history of Indo-Tibetan trade.  It will first look at traders’ experiences with the transport of “traditional” commodities such as Tibetan sheep wool, and the anticipation and anxiety over newly-introduced products “flooding” the market, such as cosmetics or mobile phones.  Secondly, the paper investigates stories concerning the “Border Baba,” a Sikh soldier stationed on the Nathu-la mountain pass between Sikkim and Tibet in the mid-1960s, whose ghost was said to have reappeared and given the state of India the go-ahead to reopen the pass in July 2006.  Ultimately, this paper aims to demonstrate that although border anxieties are certainly not unique, a closer look at these narratives could lead to a more nuanced understanding of the experiences of state power in the Himalayas.

Evolution of an Identity- The Political Re-definition of the Gorkhas of the Darjeeling Hills (Mona Chettri - SOAS, University of London)

Gorkha is a name of a district in Nepal, an army regiment and at the same time is commonly used as a blanket term for the Nepali speaking population in India, especially those living in the Darjeeling Hills. While the term itself is controversial when used as a means of classification of peoples living in India owing to its multiple meanings and its undeniable connection with Nepal, the term and its socio-political implications have undergone an internal evolution owing to the recent revival of the Gorkhaland movement in the Darjeeling Hills.
On the emotive issue of identity, the word refers to all the Nepalis living in India and when used in the political context it refers to all the people of the Darjeeling Hills, inclusive of the Lepchas, Tibetans, Marwaris and even Bengalis, while at the same time creating a distinction from the Sikkimese-Nepali. As the boundaries of the peoples the term is supposed to encompass have become more ambivalent the political saliency of the term is heightened in the pursuit of federal statehood. Thus, by analysing the evolution of the term, the proposed paper will attempt at understanding the elusive Gorkha who is in the process of redefining himself in a way that suits his political environment best.

Tourism in the Himalayan state of Sikkim: practices and representations (Olivier Chiron, University of Bordeaux)

My research focuses on tourism actors and practices in the Himalayan state of Sikkim and their influences on local traditions and cultures. Because major part (70%) of Sikkim visitors interviewed (in 2007-2009-2011) was of Indian origin, essentially from Bengal. Tourists showed different influences as an individual or as a group. Most of Indian tourists interviewed belong to middle class population with a high salary and spend their money in leisure. Among the different touristic activities, we noted tours for sighting waterfalls, visits of the sacred lakes and others sacred sites in Sikkim, walks along trekking’s paths, trekking, look at landscape like an imaginary scenery. Bengali's tourists perceived the whole area as a place for outdoor recreation and relaxation as the metropolitan population of Kolkata was specifically attracted by the protected area of the Kangchendzonga National Park and international tourists came mostly for trekking. In return, they establish economic ties with the city of Kolkata, an urban center for the promotion of tourism, a place for advertising and circulation linked to artistic creation (museums, festivals). In this paper, we can see here the heritagization process and logics which may object to the internal logic of the actors from Sikkim, an Indo-Tibetan interface.


Session I, Panel 3

Geographical Research Across the Himalaya I: Local Scale Studies
Chair: John Metz, Northern Kentucky University

The tremendous bio-physical and human variation within the Himalayan region overwhelms our ability to make generalizations. Yet, Geography, as a discipline that seeks to understand the interactions between people and their biophysical and social environments, attempts to engage this Himalayan diversity by using a wide array of methods and theories, applying these methods at a range of spatial and temporal scales, from processes at the local scale (like a single farming system) to regional patterns (like village to city migration), to global scales (like climate change.) This first of our two panels focuses on local scale problems and processes. Sarah Halvorson and colleagues describe the challenges that the town of Balakot faces as it recovers from the 2005 earthquake in northern Pakistan and how the lack of state support and guidance is allowing citizens to rebuild in ways that recreate conditions for future disasters. Keith Bosak delineates the pressures Garhwal farm communities feel from being caught in the vice of highland national park development, supported by international environmental actors, and lowland road and hydroelectric development, pushed by the Indian government. Barbara Brower then considers the roles that yaks have played in highland people’s survival strategies and cultures. Lastly, Asheshwor Shrestha emphasizes the need to use local scale traditional knowledge and socio-economic conditions in designing and evaluating how Himalayan communities adapt to climate change.

Reconstructing Balakot, Northern Pakistan: A Five-Year Retrospective on the 2005 Kashmir Earthquake (J. Halvorson, Shah F. Khan, and Ulrich Kamp - The University of Montana)

This paper examines the ongoing processes of recovery and reconstruction following the October 8, 2005 earthquake in northern Pakistan. Our study site, Balakot, a town of 30,000 along the Kunhar River, was 80-90 percent destroyed by the earthquake. The study draws on numerous site observations, repeat photography, landslide analysis, and interviews with residents and community leaders collected in July 2010 and on earlier field campaigns. We argue that risk and vulnerability are being (re)built into the landscape. According to the recently published seismic zonation map for Pakistan, Balakot is in a “Red Zone,” meaning no permanent structures should be allowed. Nevertheless, the majority of new construction is permanent and disregards regulations intended to guide reconstruction and to mitigate future hazards. Given the lack of effective oversight, cement block and concrete houses as well as commercial areas are being haphazardly built on steep and unplanned slopes and in close proximity to active landslides. Further, we describe the immediate and daily struggles of residents to access basic services in the “Red Zone.” Paradoxically, at the same time that this reconstruction activity is occurring, the government is attempting to implement a complex and questionable strategy to establish a New Balakot City, 20 kilometers south of its present location.

Between Conservation and Development: Marginalization and resource access in the Uttarakhand Himalaya (Keith Bosak - University of Montana, Missoula)

Himalayan villages are increasingly finding themselves caught between conservation efforts in the form of protected areas in the highlands and of development projects in the valleys and lower elevations. This paper uses examples from the Uttarakhand Himalaya of India, to explore the dilemma of mountain villages that are increasingly being marginalized by both conservation efforts and development projects.  Protected areas often lead to a decrease in resource access, particularly in the upland forests and alpine meadows, while development initiatives such as roads, hydroelectric facilities and modernization programs marginalize mountain communities by appropriating land, degrading the environments, and forcing unwanted changes in traditional lifestyles. With pressure literally coming from above and below, the people living in the remote villages of the Garhwal are struggling to ensure viable livelihoods and to maintain their cultures. In their struggle to survive, residents are fundamentally changing their relationship with nature and their social structure. As development efforts driven by the need for resources and energy in the lowlands collide with the conservation efforts at national and international scales, the fates of Himalayan residents who are caught in the middle remain highly problematical.

The Future of Himalayan Yak-herding: Resilience or Collapse? (Barbara Brower, Portland State University)

Livestock are critical to human survival in environments inimical to agriculture or other livelihoods; partnering with animals has enabled our species to occupy and exploit almost the full range of earth’s habitats, including some of the most extreme. The high elevation, drought, and cold of the world’s highest elevated terrain—the Tibetan Plateau and its circling ranges including the Himalaya—challenged human occupation. It was the domestication of the yak, a bovine specially adapted to these conditions, that allowed High Asian herders to turn low-productivity tundra into a wide range of human benefits including fuel, fertilizer, labor, wool, hide, hair, meat, bone, blood, and milk. Herds not only provided a livelihood for pastoral peoples, they also undergirded the complex states punctuating the Tibetan culture world. Today a dependency on yak herding unifies the very different people who occupy the highest ground in the Indo-Tibetan interface. And though yakkeeping persists, very much diminished, in pockets along the entire arc of the Himalaya, an enduring livelihood and its dependent people are unlikely to survive the compound pressures of climate change, globalization, and an enmity to grazing and graziers common to all modern governments.

Local knowledge inputs in prioritizing climate change adaptation measures – the case of Nepal (Asheshwor Shrestha - Nepal Pvt. Ltd.)

This paper aims to challenge the notion that modern climate change projections and large scale vulnerability analysis are sufficient both to generate adaptive measures and to evaluate climate change adaptation measures. Rather, I argue that to be successful policy makers must take into account local knowledge, traditional knowledge systems, and local socio-cultural factors. The paper identifies and analyzes local level adaptation actions based on the literature discussions of the benefits of including local participation and traditional knowledge systems. The findings are aimed to help guide climate policy, especially in the areas of using local knowledge in prioritizing the funding of climate adaptation projects in developing countries . The findings indicate that it is advantageous to opt for ‘no-regrets’ strategies which improve farming production even if projections of how climate will change are inaccurate. Increasingly, experts like the IPCC are recognizing the need of integrating social sciences with climate science, especially in the areas of harnessing broader public level responses to climate change. Additional research on how local individuals and societies respond to climate events are needed to establish the links between larger scale models and local responses.


October 28, Friday

10:30 a.m.-12:15 a.m.

Session II, Panel 4

Current Research in Nepali Politics
Chair: Mahendra Lawoti
From mono-ethnic state to poly-ethnic polity: Exclusion/Inclusion and Democracy in Nepal (Mahendra Lawoti, Western Michigan University)

While the democratic polity of the 1990s was exclusionary, the post 2006 democratic polity appears to have become more inclusive in Nepal.  How inclusive is the post 2006 polity and what explains the different outcomes in two democratic epochs?  The paper first analyzes long term exclusion/inclusion trend.  It looks at representation of various groups in different state organs (Parliament, cabinet, judiciary, bureaucracy) and cultural policies of the state across different regimes (1960-1990, 1990-2002, 2006-present). The paper will show that exclusion in substantial sectors exists even after 2006.  The Hindu Kingdom has been declared a secular republic after 2006 but domination of Hindu religion continue.  The Constituent Assembly and cabinet have become more representative but exclusion in the non-political sectors like the bureaucracy and judiciary continues.  Introduction of power sharing policies and institutions may continue the inclusionary transformation.  In the second section, the paper will argue that the introduction of competitive politics and considerable political rights and civil liberties in 1990 provided space to the marginalized groups to mobilize.  The competition among various political forces provided them with leverage.  When the exclusionary polity was dismantled in 2006, the marginalized groups had become influential enough to push and/or force inclusive reforms.

Social Exclusion in Nepal: A Study of Yadavs of Central Nepal Tarai (Dilli Ram Dahal, Tribhuvan University, Nepal)

In Nepal, various forms of exclusion and discrimination are recognized: social, cultural, economic, and political. Bringing the case of Yadavs of Dhanusa District of Central Nepal Tarai, the paper examines the process of inclusion/exclusion of Yadavs in relations to other groups living in Dhanusa district. The research paper is the outcomes of a larger research project carried out by CNAS/T/U and NIBR/Norway between 2006-2009 periods. The idea is to capture issues of exclusion at the community level, as well as to engage in public debate about the ways to reduce, ethnic, gender and caste -based exclusion, and to suggest policy options in response to demands from a variety of excluded groups. Using the PPS method, a total sample of 591 households were drawn out of which 408 households were Yadavs and the rest 183 households were from other communities. Both quantitative and qualitative data were collected. The paper argues that the level and scale of exclusion could occur in various degrees in the same group.

A Pre-History of the Maoist Movement: Nature, Culture and the Emergence of Rebellious Consciousness in Thabang of Nepal (Dinesh Paudel, University of Minnesota )

The prehistory of Nepal’s Maoist movement is insufficiently-known. What were the conditions of possibility for the Maoist revolt and how did it evolve into a self-sustaining movement? Based on an ethnographic study of the peasant movements in western Nepal, this paper argues that the “Maoist” is a retrospective description of heterogeneous peasant uprisings that contingently articulated as a movement in the mid-1990s. Condensing this heterogeneity under the label “Maoist” risks obscuring the long histories of local struggles as well the diverse conditions and unanticipated events that made the Maoist movement possible. The narrative of the paper examines how a cumulation of events from the early 1950s disrupted the everyday lives of the peasantry, unexpectedly catalyzing a “revolution” in their common sense, a transformation that was aided by the pedagogic work of organic intellectuals and transmitted inter-generationally via extended family and kin networks. Instead we show that Nepal’s Maoist movement is a retrospective unity, composed of and enabled by diverse agrarian uprisings with deep and different histories.

Political Economy of Scientific Land Reform in Constitution Making Process of Nepal (Purna Nepali, Kathmandu University and Consortium for Land Research and Policy Dialogue)

It is from when Nepal was declared as a democratic country in 1951 that land reform has been an issue of discussion for each government. Slogan like, "land to the tiller" has become a popular agenda for each political party with different understandings and interpretations specifically during the last decades’ violent conflict (1996-2006). Land reform has become a contentious issue in the constitution making process in Nepal. Looking from the lens of ‘Political Economy’ that how different groups with differential power and wealth interact in political and economic processes in the society, This article attempts to analyze Nepali rural agrarian structure and power relation with a focus on land reform. While doing so, a stock taking of political and policy documents was done and reviewed to see how land reform programme has progressed in Nepal. A critical analysis of Comprehensive Peace Accord 2006, Interim Constitution of Nepal 2007, the concept paper of Parliamentary Committee of Natural Resource and Revenue Allocation prepared for the Constituent Assembly for upcoming Nepal’s Constitution was done to identify provisions and dissent options on land reform issues. Report of parliamentary committee greatly reflect the power structure in the contemporary Nepali society and alarms needed concerted effort for social transformation through the new Constitution of Nepal.

Politicians and other educated people’: Political parties as arenas of informal learning(Annelies Ollieuz University of Oslo, Norway)

Whenever I observe and discuss local leadership in my fieldwork area in the south-eastern tarai, education comes up in different ways. Some people explain that when they were selected to take a leading position in a community organisation, they protested, saying ‘but I am not educated’. Others say ‘I wasn’t interested, but I am educated, so they chose me’. In this paper, I analyse local meanings of ‘being educated’ in the context of leadership. I examine the qualities which are implicitly understood when this expression is used, including at least 10 years of formal education, speaking skills, and the ability to convince others. I go on to show that some people however are referred to as educated, even though they do not have any formal education. These exceptions are usually politicians. Using Lave and Wenger’s analytical framework on social learning, I therefore propose to approach party membership as a form of informal apprenticeship. Political parties are thus arenas of informal learning, where qualities which villagers generally see as a result of formal education can be acquired.


Session II, Panel 5

The Darjeeling and Sikkim Himalaya, Part 2
Chair: Besky, Sarah, University of Wisconsin-Madison

James Fisher’s framing of the Himalayas as an Indo-Tibetan “interface” can certainly aid us in thinking about Darjeeling and Sikkim in the Northeast Indian Himalayas. In congruence with this year’s conference theme, the panelists seek not only to call our attention to the movements of people, things, and ideas across the Himalayas, but also to understand micro-level interfaces at play in politics, plantations, and performances in Darjeeling and Sikkim. This panel brings together an international group of scholars working in Darjeeling and Sikkim. The panelists frame their discussions through varied perspectives – environmental, linguistic, political, historical, and gendered – while all aiming to understand the frictions and innovations engendered by the unique confluence of actors, histories, and environments in this “neither-fish-nor-fowl contact zone.” Despite the topical breadth of the panel, with papers ranging from women’s credit programs to linguistic diversity to cross-border trade, each of the panelists seeks to interrogate the cultural, historical, and political intersections at play in their fieldsites. The panelists aim to create a dialogue about this region, which has long existed in Western accounts as a colonial refuge, spiritual utopia, and a source of boutique tea, but has only recently become a site of in-depth ethnographic inquiry.

Measured Invisibility: Ghumauri and the Challenges of Worker Organizing in Darjeeling Plantations (Debarati Sen, American University)

In this paper I examine non-union forms of labor organizing among women tea plantation workers in Darjeeling, India. I argue, based on my ethnographic research in Darjeeling since 2004, that a major section of women tea plantation workers have avoided actively participating in labor unions and Fair Trade related institutions in favor of a much more clandestine form of organizing—in revolving credit groups called Ghumauri. Largely absent from academic engagements, Ghumauri is a prevalent practice in rural areas in Nepal and Darjeeling as evident from the life history interviews of women plantation workers who claim to have inherited this group practice from their foremothers migrating from rural Nepal. At present, Ghumauri helps workers stretch their abysmally low wages through group savings, but more importantly, it provides critical mentoring for women, young and old, on labor dynamics and daily survival that they find lacking in male dominated labor unions. However, women workers categorically conceal their Ghumarui related activities from plantation authorities, union organizers and male members of their families, by practicing a level of measured invisibility. Therefore, in Darjeeling, we witness the emergence of new modalities of women’s collective self-governance, influenced by colonial gendered histories of migration, which help them survive the adversities of a post-colonial plantation.

Gurungs, ‘ethnic’ association and the state in Sikkim: opposition and consent in the making of ethnicity (Mélanie Vandenhelsken, Austrian Academy of Sciences)

The All Sikkim Gurung (Tamu) Buddhist Association of Gangtok has been founded in 1994, when a large majority of the Gurungs of Sikkim was Hindu. One of the objectives of the association was to obtain Scheduled Tribe status for the Sikkimese Gurungs. As part of the Indian state welfare system, this status guarantees the most benefits, like quotas in public employment, etc. Cultural criteria are central to this system, and the Sikkim state supports the display of cultural differences, as the reclassification of Sikkim ‘ethnic’ categories has become a part of its political programme. But since the foundation of the Gurung association, its members have been divided over the question of religion, one faction arguing that Gurungs should “go back” to Buddhism, as Hinduism poses a hindrance to the acquisition of Scheduled Tribe status, and the other that Gurungs should remain Hindu. This paper addresses the role of the state in the construction of ethnicity in Sikkim. Among the various interacting political fields producing ethnicity−like trans-border networks, globalization, etc.−the relation of mutual influence between the Sikkimese state’s various agencies and the Gurungs is at the core of my analysis. The Gurung association, as an interpreter of the state policy, is a key actor in this process, and will be given particular attention.

Mother Tongues and Multilingualism: Reflections on Linguistic Belonging in Sikkim (Mark Turin, Cambridge University/Yale University)

From September 2005 to November 2006, through the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology and in close partnership with the Government of Sikkim, India, I directed the first phase of a modern linguistic survey of Sikkim. During the survey process, the research team visited 105 government and private secondary schools across Sikkim to administer an extensive questionnaire on language use to students in classes 8-12. The preliminary results of these 17,000 completed survey forms comprising almost 500,000 data entries offer intriguing insights into the process of language shift from indigenous mother tongues to regional vernaculars, the growing importance of linguistic heritage and feelings of group belonging over actual competence in specific languages, and the symbolic and practical steps taken by the state government to support linguistic diversity in Sikkim. Using the much-critiqued theory of semilingualism and the allegedly constrained linguistic competence of minority children from low socio-economic backgrounds as a starting point, I address the issue of multilingualism in India’s diverse educational system, with particular reference to the growing traction of Verkehrssprachen such as Nepali and English in increasingly urban environments.

Political Ecologies of Justice on Darjeeling Tea Plantations (Sarah Besky, University of Wisconsin-Madison)

This paper explores how tea plantation laborers in Darjeeling, India understood their place in the circulation of fair trade organic Darjeeling tea. I examine the frictions caused by fair trade’s internationally recognized and economically rooted theories of empowerment through “fair” relations between producers and consumers, and tea workers’ calls for “justice” through political sovereignty over Darjeeling and its plantation land. I draw upon environmental history, linguistic and kinship analysis, and gendered narratives of identity to understand how workers in Darjeeling localized the universal concept of “justice” to comment on the conditions of life and tea production. Workers used “justice” to position themselves in postcolonial national and regional politics as well as a global environmental commodity chain. “Justice” grappled with tea’s place among Darjeeling’s “imperial ruins” (Stoler 2008), in which Nepali workers saw the remnants of a stable moral economy and productive tea industry. Workers believed that they could revitalize these ruins, not with international certification schemes, but through the formation of a separate Indian state of Gorkhaland. Empowerment through “fair” economic relationships stripped both tea of this imperial history and Gorkhas’ laborers place in Darjeeling. Gorkhaland, on the other hand, helped put Darjeeling tea in its place.


Session II, Panel 6

Geographical Research Across the Himalaya-II: Regional Scale Studies
Chair: John Metz, Northern Kentucky University

The second of our two panels concentrates on analyzing regional scale patterns.  It begins with Karl Ryavec, who explains how the Historical Atlas of Tibet project constructed maps of the religious and cultural sites on the Indo-Tibetan interface zone that were built between 1000 and 1949 CE.  Then Stefan Fiol explores the various ways people construct “regions,” using Uttarakhand as an example.  Finally, Jack Shroder reflects on his 50 years of geomorphological research and graduate student training in the Hindu Kush, Karakoram, and across the Himalaya.

Mapping the Indo-Tibetan Frontier in the Historical Atlas of Tibet (Karl Ryavec, University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point)

This study examines how the forthcoming Historical Atlas of Tibet maps the political units of western and central Tibet which define the Indo-Tibetan interface zone. The main polities of study are the western Tibetan kingdoms of Ngari Khorsum and other nearby kingdoms founded since the 10th century, and the more recent Lhasa-based Ganden Podrang polity of the 17th through 20th centuries. Although the historical Tibetan texts studied in this project record religious and cultural sites across these regions, this mapping effort was difficult because we had to rely on contemporary Tibetan and Chinese sources. These recent sources often restrict coverage to areas within the boundaries of China today, making it difficult to consistently map the religious and cultural sites of the historical Tibetan polities which lie within the Indo-Tibetan interface zone, but are outside of today’s China. This presentation will display the tentative maps we have created of important religious and cultural sites associated with the western and central Tibetan states that administered the Indo-Tibetan frontier areas before the formation of the PRC and will explain the processes we used to create them.

Unsettling Regionalism: Perspectives from the Uttarakhand Himalayas (Stefan Fiol, University of Cincinnati)

The concept of regionalism has a long intellectual history in India, where it is usually thought of as a political process based on the recognition of distinct (if imprecise and disputed) cultural, linguistic, and economic boundaries within the nation. Scholars of the Himalayas, by contrast, tend to rely on irrefutable geographic qualities to demarcate regions. This paper explores new lines of inquiry by bringing together political, cultural, economic, and geographical perspectives on regionalism in the Uttarakhand Himalayas. When does regionalism eclipse ethnicity, religion, caste, or class as the basis for group identification, and when does it serve to augment these other forms of difference? How might regionalism be understood as a form of bodily hexis (i.e., evidenced in behavior, dress, a way of speaking)? What are the techniques, discourses, and sentiments that give coherence to regionalism? How has regionalism become an economic strategy in the context of global capitalism? My presentation explores such questions with primary reference to Uttarakhand, but they are intended to provoke new ways of thinking about regionalism within the Himalayas more broadly.

Constraints and Possibilities for Research on Physical Environments in the Hindu Kush and Himalaya (John (Jack) Shroder, University of Nebraska - Omaha)

The Himalaya and Hindu Kush are intimidating in the breadth of their physical scale and in their human diversity, yet because of these very challenges the potential for new understandings are vast. My five decades of work there have allowed me to help many students and budding young scientists participate in the always exciting, and, sometimes, transforming breakthroughs in understanding the geographical patterns of the region. At the same time a number of failures have occurred because of the stresses and external pressures brought by the rigorous landscapes and by the political instability, economic disparities, and religious conservativism. Nevertheless in spite of these difficulties, the diligence and insights of many students have brought them fine careers despite the less than optimal circumstances. Long known as extreme tests for mountaineers, the high regions of South Asia can be equally rigorous for student researchers, yet the potential career benefits can be extreme as well. Opportunities to participate in research in the environments of the Hindu Kush and Himalaya are not plentiful, but should be sought by enterprising students looking for the opportunities that such work has long provided me, my students, and colleagues.


Session II, Panel 7

Cultural and Social Change in the Himalaya
Chair: Laura Kunreuther, Bard College

The role of sons in post-monarchy, secular Nepal (Jan Brunson U of Hawaii)

In research during 2003-2005, I documented the persistence of son preference and the joint family ideal amongst Hindu-caste women living in a semi-urban village in the Kathmandu Valley.  At that time, despite new economic opportunities and increased schooling for women, mothers expressed reluctance to invest in daughters because they would be lost to other lineages and households after marriage.  Having a son was highly valued because of the promise of old-age care, even amongst de facto nuclear family households.  Observing their teenage sons’ behavior, however, a few women wondered whether sons these days would be worth the investment.  Five years after this initial research period, these sons were poised for major demographic and cultural events such as marriage.  This cohort of young men grew up during the Maoist insurgency and came of age in a time of instability and dramatic social change.  Are these the sons that their mothers imagined they would be?  Situated in the current sociopolitical climate and amid competing discourses, more than ever young men were reflecting on decisions about their futures rather than accepting whatever may come as their given path.  This project investigates young men’s experiences of marriage, family, duty, and agency during a period of political and cultural upheaval.

Reflexivity in Relation to Tradition: the Education of Tibetan Buddhist Nuns in Nepal (Nadine Plachta, University of Berne)

This presentation explores the introduction of a combined modern and philosophical education system for Tibetan Buddhist nuns in Nepal along two principle arguments: First, I consider the ambitious efforts of international Buddhist reformers in bringing gender issues and feminist perspectives together with Buddhist philosophy as a major source for recent transformations of female monasticism. Second, in the light of the high drop-out rates, I regard monastic institutions’ increasing reflexivity in relation to tradition and the invention of new modes of producing and transmitting knowledge as an absolute necessity to create incentives for people throughout the Nepal Himalayas to pursue a monastic life. Under conditions of globalization, multifaceted flows of capital, ideas and notions, and of new uses of media and transportation, this paper analyzes Tibetan Buddhist nunneries in exile as vibrant places of producing knowledge that cannot be studied separately from global Buddhist interactions and discourses. Present day nunneries are no longer places of silent withdrawal and retreat; they are a platform of cultural encounter and exchange, where religious tradition constantly needs to be negotiated in order to adjust to modernity. This presentation, therefore, attempts to map out some key issues and questions that must be addressed when looking at the altered landscape of (Indo-) Tibetan Buddhist monasticism.

The Question of Indigeneity and Identity in a Federal Nepal (Om Gurung, Tribhuvan University)

This paper raises two major questions. The first is to provide anthropological inputs on the issue of indegeneity and identity, bearing upon historical and theoretical insights in the context of Nepal. The second is to examine the relevance of the federal structure to Nepal’s multicultural society. The central argument of this paper is that indigeneity as the basis of identity, whether primordial or socially constructed, is a socio-political reality. It is a pan national phenomenon and its relevance is realized in everyday practice in Nepal. The unequal power relations between state and society, particularly historical injustice, political marginalization, social deprivation and cultural genocide of Nepal’s indigenous peoples have resulted in their invocation of their identity. This paper further argues that unequal power relations can be better managed through restructuring the state-society relations. I also argue that a federal structure based on ethnicity, language and geographical territory can better reconcile identity aspiration of indigenous peoples and the integration imperatives of the state in Nepal.

1:30 - 3:30 p.m.

Session III, Panel 11

Rethinking the Himalaya: The Indo-Tibetan Interface and Beyond
Chair: Arjun Guneratne

"Missing Links": The Indo-Tibetan Interface in the Tourist's Mind's Eye (Mark Liechty, University of Illinois at Chicago)

Many scholars have documented how the Himalayan region—because of it relative political and geographic isolation—has served as a convenient screen on which to project all kinds of Western desires and fantasies for the past few centuries. Disillusioned and disenchanted with developments in the West, counter-culturists looked to the Himalayan fastnesses as the (hoped for) last bastion of preindustrial human wisdom and dignity. From the "Tibetan Brotherhood" and "Mahatmas" of Mdm. Blavatsky's Theosophy, to Hilton's Lost Horizon and "Shangri-La," to the "Yeti"-hunting craze of the 1950s, Westerners have sought some elusive "missing link" between themselves and their (imagined) pasts that might still exist in the world's most remote terra incognita. But how do these imaginings relate to the idea of the Into-Tibetan Interface? This paper looks at how imagined Indias and Tibets get overlaid onto the Himalayas and how the region becomes either more "Indo-" or "Tibeto-" at different historical movements and for different groups of people. It also considers Nepal's fate as a de facto "tourist Tibet" and the irony of how the (until recently) "World's only Hindu state" has long been imagined as a "Buddhist country" by tourists.

The great (gender) divide (Kathryn S. March, Cornell University)

Although Himalayan Asia is often construed like a narrow watershed between the Tibetan plateau and the Gangetic plain, from the perspective of gender, this pivotal region is both wider (in latitude) and longer (in longitude) than this: linking both the plateau and the mountains and stretching from Ladakh to Laos, this is a zone of remarkable gender equity encircled by radically more hierarchical gender arrangements in (old) China, North India and Persia. From the perspective of these old civilizations (as well as many Europeans), the Himalayas represented perilous journeys into lands where (their) gender was not simply absent, but inverted and perverted—lands where women ruled and both premarital sex and polyandry were rampant. The “Himalayan Gender” I want to explore in this paper describes a terrain within which sex is powerful, but not dangerous, and where are conjoined different but interdependent and co-valent genders, where husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters are coparceners in shared household estates, neither segregated nor hierarchically related, as they are in the surrounding regions.

Rethinking the Interface: Shamanic Resilience (Holmberg, David, Cornell University)

This paper explores how our increasing comparative knowledge of shamanic practices as well as possession, and sacrificial practices in the Himalayas complicate the conceptual model of an Indo-Tibetan interface. The paper approaches shamanisms from multiple vantages including but not restricted to the socio-political dimensions of shamanic practices and their perpetuation of local and regional vantages on space, time, culture, and society in counterpoint to the macro vantages implicit in the interface model. The concentration on the “Great” traditions and societies of Tibet and India and their “interface” is complicated by both the resilience of local traditions and the work of globalization and migration. Finally transformations of anthropological conceptions of culture call into question static views of culture implicit in “great” tradition formulations.

The Concept of the Himalaya in an Era of Identity Politics and Globalization (Susan Hangen, Ramapo College)

Nearly four decades after the publication of Jim Fisher’s book, the concept of the Himalaya as a hybrid cultural ground, or Indo-Tibetan interface, continues to provide a basic framework for scholarly interpretations of cultural diversity in the region. Yet contemporary efforts to define the Himalaya need to consider the effects of globalization in the region and recognize the role of influences beyond the Indo and Tibetan. The extensive migration of peoples from the region to other parts of the world presents another challenge to efforts to define the Himalaya as bounded in space. Furthermore, in the current moment, scholarly endeavors to define the Himalaya region as a focus of study take place alongside popular and political uses of the idea of the Himalaya. The Himalaya appears as a label in commercial enterprises and some groups have used the idea of Himalayan as an identity. I consider how people in the region and people from the region who have migrated away from it use the idea of the Himalaya and ask whether they view it as an Indo-Tibetan interface. These non-scholarly meanings of the concept are important for scholars to consider, as both discourses on this regional identity influence each other.

The Cultural Geography of the Himalaya (P. P. Karan, University of Kentucky)

In this paper cultural patterns and processes in the Himalaya and the manner they are manifested spatially will be discussed. The Himalaya presents a complex cultural pattern with four major cultures encroaching upon the area from four different directions. People of the Hindu (Indian), Lamaist Buddhism (Tibetan), Islamic (Afghan-Iranian), and animistic (Burman or Southeast Asian) cultures arrived in waves from the south, north, west and east, making the Himalaya their home and imprinting their cultures on the Himalayan environment. In general, Hindus are dominant in the sub-Himalaya and the middle Himalayan valleys from Jammu to Nepal. To the north, people of Lamaist Buddhist culture inhabit the High Himalaya from Ladakh to northeastern India. In central Nepal, in area from 6,000 to 8,000 feet and occasionally up to 10,000 feet, Indian and Tibetan cultures have intermingled, producing a combination of Hindu and Tibetan traits. This intermediate zone between Hindu and Tibetan cultures in Nepal forms a distinct cultural region. Elsewhere in the Himalaya the Hindu and Lamaist Buddhist cultures meet each other directly without any transitional zone.

3:45-5:00 p. m.

Session IV: Plenary address

Drona Rasali, “Envisioning an equitable space for marginalized people in Nepal: A journey of small strides  contributing to ‘change’ for social justice.”

6:15 p.m.

Himalayan Studies Conference Dinner

7:15 p.m.

Keynote Address

David Gellner, “Upland Region or 'a World of Peripheries'? Some Thoughts on Himalayan Identities


Saturday, Oct 29,

8:30 a.m.-10:15 a.m.

Session V, Panel 23

Religion and Modernity in the Himalaya-I: Ritual and Practice
Organizer: Birkenholtz, Jessica Vantine, Rutgers University
Discussant & Chair: Megan Adamson Sijapati, Gettysburg College

This first of two panels on the theme of religion and modernity looks to Himachel Pradesh, Bhutan, and Nepal to explore religious changes that have emerged in response to distinctively modern phenomena and issues in the Himalayan region, and the role religion plays in modern movements and phenomena that are shaping the contemporary Himalaya. Focusing particularly on ritual and practice, these papers explore how, if at all, responses to modern phenomena such as pollution, tourism, capitalist economies, travel and new media are articulated through ritual practices, religious narratives, and religious discourses. And how, if at all, ritual practices, religious narratives and discourses may be changing in response to these modern phenomena. Do religious rituals and practices inform the types of responses and contributions to 'modernity' by peoples of the Himalaya? How is 'modernity' defined, understood, and/or contested in contemporary religious expressions?

Buffalo Sacrifice to the Goddess Hadimba: A Complex Response to Modernity (Ehud (Udi) Halperin, Columbia University)

Although banned by state law and subjected to mounting criticism, buffalo sacrifices in the Kullu Valley to the Himalayan Goddess Hadimba are on the rise (Himachal Pradesh, India). While traditionally performed once every ten or twelve years, these grand sacrifices are now celebrated almost annually. The dramatic increase, I argue, is rooted in the recent introduction of modernity to the region by means of a developing capitalist economy, better transportation systems, new technologies, and, most prominently, tourism. These changes have drastically affected life in the region and have destabilized traditional social and cultural patterns. Drawing on ethnographic material from the region gathered over the past two and a half years, I analyze the complex ways in which buffalo sacrifices provide locals with an arena for interpreting, resisting and accommodating the transformations in their lives over the past two decades. I illustrate how, in the face of the rapidly advancing forces of modernity, these controversial and bloody rituals strive to uphold the shaken social order and sense of identity, as well as invest these forces with meaning.

At the Boundary of Modernity: Religion, Technocracy, and Waste Management in Bhutan (Elizabeth Allison, California Institute of Integral Studies)
In a desire to both improve urban aesthetics, and implement modern resource management techniques, the Himalayan nation of Bhutan began studying household and municipal solid waste practices during the first decade of the 21st century. Research efforts were framed around resolving the quandary posed by an apparently intransigent populace that resisted the efforts of government officials to implement technocratic waste management systems. Pollution – understood theoretically as “essentially disorder” in both modern and traditional societies – is managed through symbolic structures that maintain boundaries (Douglas, 1966).
I show how, at a time of momentous upheaval for the Bhutanese state, which was undergoing a transition from monarchy to a modern, democratic form of governance, concern about disorder, both social and material, was heightened. Cultural attitudes, based in Bhutanese Buddhism, impeded the adoption of modern waste management systems because traditional conceptions of “pollution” did not coincide with modern garbage disposal practices. Villagers resisted particular modern practices that were thought to cause spiritual pollution. I demonstrate how Bhutan’s waste crisis was not only a material crisis, related to increasingly uncontrolled and unmanaged refuse, but also a spiritual and political crisis, in which traditional religious and modernist views re-negotiated the boundaries of Bhutanese society.
The Modernization of a Medieval Nepali Hindu Tradition: Preliminary Observations of Recent Changes (Jessica Vantine Birkenholtz, Rutgers University)

Nepal’s popular Svasthani Vrata Katha textual-ritual tradition, which dates to the late sixteenth century, has a documented history of adapting to and evolving in tandem with contemporary sociopolitical developments well into the early twentieth century when the tradition became largely standardized. However, Nepal’s push to modernize in recent years has again produced important changes within the Svasthani tradition, as the tradition reacts to modern forces such as expanded work hours and commuting, increased availability of modern conveniences, and changing notions of religion and the state. This paper examines the intersection of traditional ideals and practices with these modern phenomena to consider what changes are occurring within this tradition, why now, and to what effect, both within the tradition and among its devotees. I will suggest that these changes are characteristic of the resilience and adaptability of this living, medieval tradition, yet pose a serious threat to the continued perpetuation of the tradition as it has been historically practiced up to the modern period.

8:30 a.m.-10:15 a.m.

Session V, Panel 24

Tibet, China, India: mapping connections across history, politics, and culture
Chair: Geoff Childs, Washington University in St. Louis

Liu Shengqi in Lhasa: A New Window Into Tibet and Chinese Assertions on the Plateau, 1945-1949 (Adam Cathcart, Pacific Lutheran University)

Before Liu Shengqi (柳陞祺)became the early PRC’s foremost historian of Tibet, he was an English-language secretary in Lhasa for the Nationalist Government’s Commission on Mongolia and Tibet. His travels and assessment of Han-Tibetan relations in and around Lhasa provide a unique and vital perspective on Tibet’s tenuous status from the end of War of Resistance until 1949, when Liu Shengqi was expelled from the city with all Chinese and a handful of Tibetans suspected of sympathizing with them. Liu's experiences have been essentially ignored up until now by even such thorough scholars as Melvyn Goldstein, but with the 2010 publication of Liu's recollections in Lhasa (in Chinese), we can now fill a minor but significant gap in the literature on Tibet's history -- and assertions of Guomindang power in the region -- in the period just preceding the traumatic collision with Maoism.

Imaging the Dalai Lama: Incarnations in Art and Practice (Sarah Getzelman, The Ohio State University)

My paper examines imagery of the fourteen Dalai Lamas in the religious and political history of Tibet and, in particular, explores how imagery relating to the current, or Fourteenth Dalai Lama, has become a focal point for religious, political, and social movements from 1959, when he left Tibet, to the present. Though banned within Tibet, such images are popular throughout the rest of the world and offer an important subject of study. I expect my study to show that the images of the Dalai Lama(s) serve contemporary audiences in three major ways. First, these images are representations of the Buddha for Tibetan Buddhist practitioners and represent a continuum of Dalai Lama imagery that has existed for more than 500 years. Second, to the international audience, images of the Nobel Prize winner help fuel peace and environmentalist efforts around the globe. Third, the image of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, the exiled monk who has been thrust into the role of the leader of the exiled Tibetan community, is viewed as a threat to the Chinese government’s desire for a unified China. Because these images are now inextricably tied to these religious, social, and political issues, my paper expands beyond the traditional art historical framework.

TV across the Indo-Tibetan Interface: Indian TV as a cultural mediator for ‘Newcomer’ Tibetans in Dharamsala? (Henrion-Dourcy Isabelle, Université Laval)

Diasporas have drawn onto them substantial research on the integrative role of their transnational media. The much studied Tibetan Diaspora in South Asia has so far received relatively small attention in this regard. Television, comprising local Tibetan TV, the STAR-TV package and, in some settlements, channels broadcasted from the People’s Republic of China, is avidly watched in a dozen languages in homes, TCV schools or public places. This paper will reflect on observations made in the heterogeneous Tibetan community of Dharamsala, now a transit place for Tibetans with a variety of life trajectories, educational backgrounds and linguistic skills. While the ‘newcomers’ from Tibet watch mostly media broadcasted from the PRC, they also enjoy, sometimes with little or no understanding, productions from their host country India, such as TV series, Bollywood films and entertainment reality shows. Their daily interactions with Indians being mostly limited, this exposure to ‘India’ through the TV set can become a critical enculturation to what they see as ‘local’ mores, although the India represented in those mass media can hardly be considered ‘locally’ relevant. How then does Indian TV watching mediate representations of India and modernity for these newly arrived immigrants?

In Search of the Hidden Land of Pema Koh: Tibetan Pilgrims Reminisce about their Attempt to Reach the Unreachable Land (Tsering Wangchuk, University of San Francisco)

My Tibetan informants left Tibet in 1959 when they heard that the Chinese army was going to demolish Buddhism in their land. A year later they arrived in India, where they have lived since then. India was not the place where they had originally planned to resettle; instead the Hidden Land of Pema Koh was the final destination that they had on their mind throughout the course of the escape. In this paper, the concept of the Hidden Land will be analyzed by utilizing information gathered from my Tibetan informants against some sixteenth and seventeenth-century texts on the Hidden Land. The questions that will be addressed are: what is the Hidden Land of Pema Koh? Is the Hidden Land a spatially and temporally located place? When and why do some Tibetans make the effort to flee to the Hidden Land? How similar or different is the journey to the Hidden Land from a “mainstream” pilgrimage? I hope that these questions will help us better understand the notion of sacred space/pilgrimage within Tibetan religious and cultural context.

8:30 a.m.-10:15 a.m.

Session V, Panel 25

Biodiversity conservation and sustainable development in the eastern Himalaya of Yunnan, China
Organizer/Chair: Teri Allendorf, University of Wisconsin-Madison,

Our group of six presenters is affiliated with the University of Wisconsin’s NSF IGERT program "Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Development in Southwest China,” a program which conducts cross-disciplinary research in the eastern Himalaya of Yunnan, China. During the last 30 years China has undergone massive social, political and economic changes, with important ramifications for the exceptional range of human and natural systems across the country. Yunnan Province, a biodiversity hotspot, is subject to many of these forces of change, including traditional minority land use practices, economic development, national environmental protection policies and global climate change. As we re-think the Himalaya, Yunnan plays a critical role in understanding what is happening at the Himalaya’s eastern edge. We hope the session will foster dialogue on how biodiversity conservation and sustainable development in the eastern Himalaya can both inform and benefit from broader examinations of the political, economic, social and cultural conditions of change across Himalayan regions.

Local Drivers of Forest Cover Change Variability in Tibetan Yunnan, China (Van Den Hoek, Jamon, University of Wisconsin-Madison)

My research investigates local factors influencing inter-village forest cover change variability in Tibetan agro-pastoralist Yunnan, China. Though an extensive logging ban has been in place for the last ten years, forest cover change has been spatially heterogeneous with neighboring villages often witness to markedly different patterns of small-scale forest cover change. The reasons for this local variability are not well understood. I use satellite imagery, spatial modeling, and extensive village interview data within a political and cultural ecology framework to examine local drivers of forest cover change variability. My findings show that while villages continue to exploit forests for firewood and timber relatively unfettered by recent state policy restrictions, some villages have spatially redistributed their forest resource use sites well beyond local collective forests as they can now afford to buy forest products from other villages’ forests. This means that forests of richer villages are allowed to expand at the expense of more distant forest cover while the forests of poorer villages continue to be deforested. My research findings build on cross-scale land cover change and institutional scholarship with clear relevance for forest policy design and conservation intervention in Tibetan China and across the Himalaya in other forest-dependent communities.

Persistence and Transformation of Butter-Tea Food Systems in Tibetan Yunnan, China (Selena Ahmed, Tufts University)

This study explores the persistence and change of butter-tea food systems in rural Tibetan communities in northwest Yunnan in response to socio-economic and political change. Surveys were implemented to identify components of traditional butter-tea food systems that have persisted and changed and, to examine the consequences of these patterns for land use and community health. Research was carried out between 2008-2010 in three Tibetan communities of Upper Adong, Reshuitang, and Hanpi in the area of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau in Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in northwest Yunnan, China. Participant observation and open-ended and structured interviews were carried out to understand dietary diversity, land use, socio-economic, and community health dynamics. Findings support that increased market integration has clearly impacted diet, nutrition, and wellbeing at the study sites. The partial adherence to butter-tea diets can be attributed to local preference, cultural identity, accessibility, and adherence to Tibetan Buddhist worldviews and practice. This study provides an example of how worldviews influence land use, dietary choices and associated wellbeing. It further provides an example of the integral role of commodity networks in the distribution of quality product. Lastly, long-term prospects of butter-tea food systems are discussed.

Shifting cultivation: The decline of tartary buckwheat farming in its center of origin (Mary Saunders, University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Tartary buckwheat (Fagopyrum tataricum) is a traditional staple crop native to the Himalayan region, grown mainly on hillsides in southwest China, Bhutan, Nepal and northeast India. This area is the major in-situ global resource for buckwheat germplasm, containing diverse farmer landraces as well as wild relatives. The crop is nutritious, suited to harsh environments, and culturally important for some ethnic groups. Yet tartary buckwheat farming is on the decline in its center of origin. My research investigates factors influencing this trend in Yunnan, China. Fieldwork was conducted during 2008-2011 in 91 villages. The study combines household surveys, spatial environmental data, and molecular genetic fingerprinting of 295 collected seed populations. Genetic data is forthcoming, but survey results suggest economic development, village demographic change, and government agricultural policies contribute to the decline of this traditional crop in Yunnan.

Livelihood and matsutake mushroom harvests in Tibetan Yunnan, China (Brian Robinson, University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Over the past 30 years, means of livelihood support have changed drastically in the Tibetan Himalayas, largely due to the rise in international demand for unique forest products, national policy changes (namely, a ban on timber harvesting) and increased market integration. Using data collected from over 250 households in 13 villages in northwest Yunnan, China, I discuss how a variety of forest products support livelihoods in the region. I explore the role of matsutake mushrooms in depth, and whether self-governance over mushroom harvests improves livelihood outcomes. Further, I look at whether there is a correlation between asset-poor households and reliance on forest products. This research helps us better understand the relationship between reliance on forest products and village inequality.

Sacred sites are refugia for Himalayan forest birds in Tibetan Yunnan, China (Jodi Brandt, University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Northwest Yunnan is a hotspot of both ethnic and biological diversity. Several ethnic minority groups have sacred sites imbedded in their landscape, and the sacred area networks of Tibetan Buddhism are the most prominent. Tibetan sacred mountains are few in number but large in size, and form the focal points of a complex sacred site system that includes hundreds of smaller community-based sacred forests dispersed all over the landscape. Near roads and villages, sacred forests are the only remaining oases of natural forest. We surveyed birds and vegetation in 35 plots within 6 Tibetan community-based sacred forests and 27 plots in the surrounding matrix in order to understand whether these remnant forest patches are important nesting refugia for Himalayan forest birds. On average, sacred forest plots harbored significantly more breeding bird species (17.5) than the matrix plots (13.8) (p=0.00069). In addition, sacred forests contained a larger diversity of tree and shrub species, and supported a higher abundance of birds, compared to the surrounding matrix. As rapid economic development and forest clearing continues throughout NW Yunnan, sacred sites are an important opportunity for biological conservation in this region.


Session V, panel 26

Khumbu, Scholars’ Crucible: Four decades in the study of People and Place
Organizer: Barbara Brower
Chair: James Fisher
Discussants: Barbara Brower, James Fisher

The Sherpa communities of Khumbu, Nepal, were visited by foreign scholars for the first time in the 1950s, shortly after Hillary and Tenzing’s ascent of Mt Everest; like climbers attempting Sagarmatha, the trickle of early researchers has grown to a flood. Scores of doctoral dissertations have been written about people and region; the arguments and insights of successive generations create a dynamic crucible in which the ideas and information generated by these scholars continue to stew. The questions asked, the methods used, and the training, expectations, disciplinary perspectives, and origins of researchers who study Khumbu and the Sherpa continue to shift as the numbers of researchers—and their questions and answers—continue to expand. This panel brings together two disciplines, a wide range of questions, and several generations of scholars to present current research and provide some context for Khumbu studies.

The Heterogeneity of Khumbu Sherpa Ecological Knowledge (Jeremy Spoon, Portland State University)

In this paper, I describe research on the heterogeneity of Khumbu Sherpa ecological knowledge and the relevance of these findings to environmental decision-making. Utilizing mixed quantitative and qualitative methods, I selected a stratified random sample of 100 individuals to assess spiritual values, species and landscape knowledge. The results generally showed that individuals who lived on the tourist route and younger generations had less knowledge of these domains. These findings suggested that some Sherpa ecological knowledge and understanding shifted from spiritual values and agro-pastoralism to a more tourism-centered economic logic. Other knowledge was perpetuated or remade. Future environmental decisions may thus be influenced by these changes.

Comparison of on-route and off-route villages in Pharak (Pasang Yangjee Sherpa, Washington State University)

This paper compares villages in Pharak that are on and off the main trekking trail toward Sagarmatha National Park in order to identify and examine the significant socio-cultural and economic differences between them. Access to wealth, exposure to foreign ideas and interventions, and integration into the global economy is usually very different for villagers located on and off this well-traveled route. Such differences may influence the resilience of these communities in dealing with global problems such as climate change.

Exploring global discourses in a sacred landscape: Methods and theories (Lindsay Skog, University of Colorado at Boulder )

Throughout the Himalaya, revered mountains, valleys, and other landscape features, along with place-based rituals root beliefs to the landscape as material expressions of human relationships with the environment. Meanwhile, fluid notions of global environmental, development, religious, and indigenous political discourses converge in communities within these landscapes. In the culturally, politically, and environmentally diverse Himalayan community of Khumbu, Nepal, grounded beliefs and knowledges mingle with global discourses and are mobilized to engage Sherpa communities with those discourses. As notions of sacred landscapes are scaled up to articulate with global discourses, they are increasingly simplified and homogenized. Such mobilizations of sacred landscapes deny the heterogeneous beliefs held in the Sherpa community by advancing uniform, uncontested, and apolitical understandings of indigenous belief systems. This incongruity brings into question the ways in which localized knowledges are produced and circulated within and between scales, how notions of the sacred are made readable in global discourses, and the ways in which the local-global dialogue shapes human-environment relationships. This paper considers theoretical and methodological approaches to addressing the questions raised in the dialogue between global discourses and notions of the sacred among Sherpa residents of Khumbu, Nepal.

Learning about Us: reading anthropological texts from cultural exile (Jemima Sherpa, Independent Scholar)

Beginning with Furer-Haimendorf in the 1950s, written work on Sherpa culture has been dominated by the voices and interests of western, primarily English-speaking authors. In the last half-century, the Sherpa community of the Solu-Khumbu area has experienced highly accelerated change, particularly as a result of tourism, emigration, and engagement with the Nepali school system. This paper provides a cumulative overview of five decades of anthropological scholarship on Sherpas, and discusses the picture of cultural identity that young Sherpas born, raised or educated outside of the heartland might draw from these sources.


Saturday, Oct 29

10:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m.

Session VI, Panel 31

Religion and Modernity in the Himalaya-II: Language and Discourse
Organizer: Megan Adamson Sijapati
Chair: Jessica Vantine Birkenholtz

This second of two panels on the theme of religion and modernity looks to the Kathmandu valley and the Tibetan plateau to explore religious changes that have emerged in response to distinctively modern phenomena and issues in the Himalayan region, and the role religion plays in modern movements and phenomena that are shaping the contemporary Himalaya. Focusing particularly on language and discourse, these papers explore how, if at all, responses to modern phenomena such as displacement, new media, translocal religious movements, political shifts, citizenship and tourism are articulated through ritual practices, religious narratives, and religious discourses. And how, if at all, religious language, narratives and discourses may be changing in response to these modern phenomena. Do religious language and discourse inform the types of responses and contributions to 'modernity' by peoples of the Himalaya? How is 'modernity' defined, understood, and/or contested in contemporary religious expressions?

Venerating the Nation, Advertising Dharma: Religious Language in Nepal’s 2006 People’s Movement (Michael Baltutis, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh)

April 2006 saw the downfall of the two hundred thirty-eight year reign of the Nepalese monarchy in a series of conflicts between the royal government and its populist opponents. Following “the February First incident” of 2005 in which the king worked to consolidate his loosening grip on national power, the royal government raised a series of highly visible billboards throughout the Kathmandu Valley. Competing with advertisements for snacks, beer and other middle class niceties, these billboards advertised the roles that the king and the people were to play in a new democracy. These roles were described in terms that were alternately social, as the boards touted the government’s support of Nepal’s diversity; political, in their assertion that the king and people must work together; and religious, in the encouragement they gave to Nepal’s citizens to perform their patriotic dharma. At issue in this paper will be their use of a vocabulary that reinforced a “universal” Hinduism, rather than the religion of any of Kathmandu’s many resident ethnic groups. This paper will analyze the content of this explicitly religious language and question the effectiveness of this form of communication introduced by a medieval Hindu monarch on a rapidly modernizing urban population.

Muslim Belonging and Place in Nepal: Reflections on Contrasting Narratives and Contemporary Debates in the Kathmandu Valley (Megan Adamson Sijapati, Gettysburg College)

This paper will explore conceptions of Muslim space and community in the contemporary Kathmandu valley to consider how various Nepali Muslim historical narratives about sacred space and saintly charisma, preserved in oral histories, contrast with Islamic reformists' notions of place and identity--notions which have arisen alongside modernization processes that have enabled Muslims to connect with the larger global umma and translocal, conservative, discourses.  In this paper I will consider in what ways historical memories that are embedded in the community’s religious and communal spaces play a role in the overall Muslim claim to space in the Kathmandu valley, and the nature of the contemporary challenges to these.  Through this analysis I will suggest that these oral histories reveal a conception of Nepali Muslim sacred space as legitimated through permission of the Hindu monarchy, yet perennially ‘other’ and contentiously situated in a Hindu majority context, whereas new reformist-oriented Muslim narratives focus on their role in the national history of Nepal to lay claim to belong based in their rights as citizens of a modern nation state.

"Stop Saying 'Western,' Start Saying 'White'": an argument for a renewed vocabulary in English language literature on Tibetan Buddhism (Michelle Kleisath, University of Washington)

This paper employs a literature review and analysis along with ethnographic findings to explore the need for a renewed vocabulary in English language literature on Tibetan Buddhism. Even in the most incisive critiques of western engagement with Tibetan Buddhism, such as Lopez' now famous "Prisoners of Shangrila", race is not a topic of discussion. Focusing on the popular use of the term “western” as a stand-in for “white”, this paper shows how whiteness is obscured behind non racialized signifiers, such as “scholar” or “author” whereas racialized descriptions of Tibetans and Han Chinese are ubiquitous. I argue that the obscuration of whiteness is linked with a privileged neutrality which is evident in the majority of English literature on Tibetan Buddhism. Considering the dominant presence of white people in such literature, I argue for a renewed vocabulary that allows for more honest and direct dialogue about the meaning of whiteness in this particular area of scholarship and practice.

Reimagining Buddhist Ethics on the Tibetan Plateau (Holly Gayley, University of Colorado at Boulder)

In Tibetan areas of the PRC since the 1980s, Buddhist leaders have encouraged the Tibetan laity to withstand the corrosive effects of rapid social change through newly focused adherence to Buddhist ethical principles. These efforts have recently taken on a new sense of urgency in nomadic areas as young Tibetans are pouring into county seats without educational opportunities or vocational training. In response, leading monasteries have codified a new set of ten Buddhist virtues, which lay Tibetans are adopting at large vow-taking ceremonies. The ten virtues target a host of bad habits related to social ills--rather than soteriological imperatives--such as drinking, smoking, eating meat, hunting, wearing fur, and visiting prostitutes.
This paper traces a concerted movement to rearticulate Buddhist ethics as a platform for social reform. I focus on efforts by cleric-scholars at Larung Buddhist Academy, the locus of an emergent Buddhist modernism on the Tibetan plateau. In tracts of advice to the laity, its leaders have positioned Buddhist ethics as key to the "path forward" for Tibetans, a vision of progress that emphasizes continuity with the past yet participates in the transformation of nomadic Tibetan lifestyle. I argue that this is a modernist mode of resistance to the civilizing mission of CCP discourse, state policy, and the encroachment of global market capitalism. This message has been disseminated widely through recorded speeches, printed slogans, colorful posters, and pop songs composed by monks.

10:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m.

Session VI, Panel 32

Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Immigrant Labor: Himalayan Diasporas
The everyday immigrant-integration: Nepali refugees, asylum seekers, and migrant workers in New York City (Tina Shrestha, Cornell University)

Escaping from a decade long political conflict between the Nepali government and the Maoist rebels (1996-2006) and integrating into US society, Nepali immigrants are becoming increasingly visible in the secondary service sectors (restaurants, grocery stores, nail-salon parlors, domestic work) throughout New York City. My paper examines the ongoing social production of Nepali ‘immigrant-community’ in the United States as intricately connected to (seemingly) different migration processes and integration practices. Drawing from my ethnographic fieldwork, which I have been conducting since October 2009, I examine specific ways in which the emergence of Nepalis as refugees and asylum seekers in New York City intersect with their everyday lived realities as migrant workers. In particular, I focus on the ways in which Nepalis articulate their everyday work experiences as significant, if ambiguous, material and symbolic dimensions of being migrant workers and simultaneously belonging to the larger ‘immigrant-community’ of refugees and asylees. I consider the centrality of immigrant-difference mediated through (mis)communications, ambiguities, and contradictions rather than (assumed) commonalities based on geography, national history, ethnicity, and shared political vision in defining relations within people in the Nepali ‘immigrant-community.’

“Qatar is like a jail”: Daily life in a Nepalese migrant labor camp and the inmate metaphor (Tristan Bruslé, CNRS, France)

Nepalese migrants in the Gulf countries number between 1.2 and 2 million. Their living space extends far beyond the traditional pattern of Nepalese migrations to India but at the same time, locally, they shrink to set places due to the policy implemented by the State of Qatar. Since, for the most part, they belong to the working class diaspora, they are housed in labor camps, a model predominant in accommodating millions of “guest workers” in the Gulf States. As “neo-liberal spaces” (Marsden), labor camps combine the need both for global companies to have flexible, on-the-spot manpower hired on a short-term contract (the sponsorship system fits these objectives perfectly) and for the host countries to try and settle the demographic imbalance on the labor market without having to address any integration issues. In a world described as more and more fluid and open to circulation, labor camps are nonetheless spaces of confinement and exclusion. In Qatar they are part of highly segregated urban planning (Nagy), of which Nepalese migrants suffer the discriminatory nature.
In this paper I will focus on the materiality and representations of daily life inside a labor camp and on the inmate metaphor used by workers to describe their own status. I will analyze the use of places and the pace of camp life. The use of the word “jail” (jelkhana) to portray their own lives becomes apparent in the migrant's discourse. I will show how such statements are formulated and how people live and describe their lives in such a constrained environment. As a word whose meaning is not usually applied to this category of people, I will show how it corresponds to the creation of a self “set apart” category. “Jail” should not only be understood as a closed place but should be seen as a metaphor for a set of constraints felt by migrants: the obligation to leave home, to take out a loan, to reimburse it, to work and never to change jobs, to live in a camp and so forth. As such, all theses constraints and feelings of a common destiny make Nepalese migrants feel that they belong to the same national category, marginal in status but dominant in number.

Resettlement of Bhutanese Refugees in Lexington, KY (Christie Shrestha, University of Kentucky)

Refugee resettlement is neither a smooth transition nor a simple matter of moving people from one place to another. This paper highlights the nuances and complexities of third-country resettlement of Bhutanese refugees in Lexington, KY. It is based on an ethnographic study conducted in the summer of 2009. The study illuminates that resettlement is an unsettling process that is often characterized by inconsistencies and ambiguities that maintain unequal power dynamics between the employees of resettlement organization and the refugees. More specifically, drawing on ethnographic moments, this paper examines the ways in which resettlement organization polices and micro-manages refugees’ behaviors. In doing so, resettlement process influences, if indirectly, refugees’ understanding of what it means to be “American” and to integrate into “American” society.

10:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m.

Session VI, Panel 33

The Social Dimensions of Agriculture and Climate Change in the Himalaya
Organizer: Milan Shrestha, Arizona State University
Chair: Netra Chhetri, Arizona State University

There is a growing consensus among scientists and development practitioners that climate change is an immediate threat to the Himalayan region. Receding glaciers, frequent incidents of glacial lake outbursts, decreasing water availability, warmer temperature and climate variability, and production zones moving to higher elevations are some of the most frequently reported impacts of climate change. While many of these may seem isolated cases or anecdotal observations, these issues certainly project a scenario filled with significant socio-ecological implications on regional agriculture and food security. Climate change has direct impacts on agriculture and food security, and likewise, agriculture and natural resource management affect the climate system. In this session, we bring together papers by geographers, anthropologists, and other social scientists who explore the social dimensions of agriculture, food security, and climate change in the Himalayan region. Our goal is to pull together and discuss some of the empirical evidence of changes in agriculture, food security, and livelihood systems, and analyze the complex and dynamic relationships between climate change, agriculture and food security.

Climate Change in the Nepal Himalaya: Examining Vulnerability and Livelihood Security Issues (Milan Shrestha, Arizona State University)

The issue of Himalayan glaciers retreat has received extensive press coverage in recent years, often being depicted as a key evidence of global climate change. In this paper, I first critically examine the melting glaciers issue with reference to Manang and Lamjung districts of Nepal, and then focus on the likely impacts and the adaptation strategies in the region, where perennial food shortage is a key stressor. Particularly in the last three decades, these two districts have witnessed tremendous changes in accessibility, local economy, institutions, land-use, and most importantly, agricultural practices. All these changes have influenced the ways smallholders have historically adapted to the mountain environment for their livelihood security in this high-altitude and high-energy region. In doing so, my paper specifically discusses the three key issues: (i.) how mountain smallholders of the region have historically responded to the extreme climatic and geographic conditions, food shortage, and vulnerability; (ii.) how their responses have changed in recent years, especially in the face of growing uncertainty (e.g., melting glaciers, labor shortage, unreliable remittance); and (iii.) what are the possible scenarios of adaptation responses to climate change in the region.

Climate-induced innovation in agriculture: a conceptual approach to understanding agricultural adaptation to climate change (Netra Chhetri, Arizona State University)

Much of what is known about the role of technology in agricultural development has yet to be captured in discussions of climate change adaptation. Research efforts in understanding the processes of technological innovation are thus pivotal in assessing likely adaptation of agriculture to climate change in the future. Drawing upon the hypothesis of induced innovation, and using Nepal as a case, this paper examine the extent to which resource endowments, particularly climatic ones, have influenced the evolution of technological and institutional innovations in the country’s agricultural research and development. This study reveals that farmers and their supporting institutions in Nepal are increasingly sensitive towards innovation of location specific technology on demand. Nepal has developed novel multilevel institutional partnership, including collaboration with farmers and other non-governmental organizations in all stage of technological innovation. Most importantly, by bringing the formal technological innovation process closer to farmers and by combining the sub-disciplines of agriculture such as crop breeding, insect and pest management, agronomy, and traditional farmer’s knowledge, this multilevel institutional partnership has facilitated the government’s effort to transfer agricultural technologies to farmers in a more efficient manner. This has improved knowledge network among institutions and between scientists and farmers much more intensively thereby increasing the chances for better adaptation of evolving technologies to climate variability in the future.

‘Deconstructing Gender-Climate Myths: A Case Study from the Darjeeling Himalaya’ (Deepa Joshi, Wageningen University)

Building on the prevalent blurring of the eco- and biodiversity heterogeneity of the Eastern Himalaya as well as the regions’ diverse socioeconomic and inter- and intra-ethnicity in climate discourses, this paper draws attention to the  sweeping positioning of mountain women as vulnerable victims and/or formidable champions in such analyses. A bureaucratic theorization of backward and needy, but willing, capable and committed Third World Women, a persisting development agenda is well reflected in current gender-climate discourses in the region.
Ethnographic analysis from the Darjeeling region of the Eastern Himalaya reveals that the much romanticized women-environment link is absent in the Darjeeling Himalaya, where a critical mass of women political activists co-exist with a deafening silence on local women’s struggles around a diminishing water availability and affordability. Locally, women political activists make up a diverse constituency and in the absence of vertical or lateral collectives on environmental and gender, there are few options for these women leaders than to adopting masculine perspectives and privileges of a predominantly male leadership. This enables a relatively easy discarding and disowning of gendered struggles relating to water access and availability. The findings from these analyses caution against the popular plan to hitch an assumed mass of environmentally-inclined homogeneous mountain women to constructed climate-gender development agendas in the region and/or globally; urging attention instead to understanding why and how climate sharpen contextual gender-poverty-water disparities locally.

Beware of the Climate Change Bandwagon (John Metz, Northern Kentucky University)

That climate change will have a significant impact on the biophysical and social environments of the Himalaya is likely and elicits much discussion and research. Yet, in the broader world, climate change (CC) is contested, narratives ranging from denial to skepticism to probabilistic support to evangelism are employed to discuss it:. Scientific narratives are essentially probabilisitic – they always retain some probability of error. The scientific understanding of exactly how climate change will affect the Himalayan region is minimal. Glacier termini are retreating, but no long term studies of glacial mass balances exist. Eastern Himalayan precipitation comes with the summer monsoon, but in the west moisture arrives with winter mid-latitude cyclones - how precipitation patterns will change remains unclear. Responses to environmental crises of the past were determined by outside experts who thought they understood the issues and didn’t need to include locals in framing the problems or in proposing solutions. Inclusive research and projects can empower farmers and increase their ability to adapt, but such inclusivity has been rare in the past and remains unlikely at a national scale. CC is a seductive bandwagon, but we must maintain a wry skepticism about consensus projections of how it will unfold and how we should best respond to it.

12:25 p.m.

Annual ANHS Members' Meeting


Saturday, Octo 29,

1:45 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Session VII, Panel 39

Islam in the Himalayas: Representations, Boundaries, and Identities
Organizer: Rohit Singh, UC Santa Barbara
Chair: Jennifer Aengst, UC Davis
Discussant: Megan Sijapati, Gettysburg College

This panel will highlight the religious diversity and cultural complexities of the Himalayas by presenting case studies of various Himalayan Muslim communities. A particular emphasis will be placed on the themes of religious boundaries and identity formation. Issues to be addressed include: How do certain representations of the Himalayas (as occupied exclusively by Buddhists, for example) get challenged and disrupted when thinking about Islam in the Himalayan region? How have religious and social boundaries between Muslim and non-Muslim communities been shaped, constructed, contested, and mobilized in a variety of contexts? What strategies have Islamic traditions employed to create, sustain, or redefine identity in response to modern changes?
Through exploring these topics among Muslim communities in Tibet, Nepal, and India, these papers will provide a picture of some of the roles that Islam has played in shaping religious, cultural, political, and economic landscapes in the Himalayas.

Narrative and History among Tibetan Muslims in Kashmir: Rethinking Identity within the Indo-Tibetan Interface (Rohit Singh, UC Santa Barbara)

Current scholarship on Tibetan identity focuses almost exclusively on Buddhist populations, thereby neglecting significant minority communities who offer diverse and alternative understandings of Tibetan-ness. In this paper, I will explore the issue of identity among one such group: the Tibetan Muslims of Kashmir, a diaspora community that migrated from Lhasa to India in 1959 following the collapse of the Central Tibetan government. Drawing on oral histories gathered during my visit to this colony, I will examine how collective memories of 1959 continue to shape contemporary Tibetan Muslim identity. Tibetans view this period as tragic loss of their homeland where they enjoyed freedom, economic prosperity, and peaceful relations with Buddhists. However, using the Islamic conceptions of hijra (migration) they narrate their departure from Tibet as a sacred event during which their ancestors, inspired by the Prophet Muhammad’s migration from Mecca to Medina in 622, saved Islam from a communist regime. Thus collective memories of 1959 place the story of the Tibetan Muslims within a broader pan-Islamic historical framework in which they are first and foremost Muslims, and thus part of a larger community of believers living in accordance with prophetic example. This paper will highlight the significance of Tibetan minority histories.

Hyper-fertile and Against Contraception? An Examination of Muslim Women’s Reproduction (Jennifer Aengst, UC Davis)

Religion often shapes reproductive behavior, and Islam is often singled out as the reason for the high fertility of Muslim women. In India, this linkage between reproduction and fertility is evident in a particular representation of Muslim women that has become dominant in the public sphere—as hyper-fertile and unwilling to use contraception. This paper investigates the relationship between this representation and the real lives of Muslim women in the Indian Himalayan region of Ladakh, where tense relations between Buddhists and Muslims are centered on issues of fertility behavior and population. Through a hospital-based survey, interviews, and a recent field visit with Balti women living near the Line of Control, I show how Muslim women negotiate their reproductive practices with Islamic tenets. This paper disrupts the representation of a hyper-fertile Muslim women refusing contraception, and instead shows a much more complex picture. On the one hand, local interpretations of Islam allow for particular fertility decisions. Yet, due to the importance of children and the influence of religious leaders, women have to carefully negotiate between religious, family, and cultural pressures.

Being “Muslim” on India’s frontiers: Militarization and Identity Politics in Kargil, India (Mona Bahn, DePauw University)

In the aftermath of the “limited” war between India and Pakistan in 1999, the Indian military established permanent bases in the border district of Kargil to counter any future threats to India’s national integrity. In addition to co-opting local land and resources, the Indian military inducted local populations into India’s counterinsurgency apparatus by routinizing new regimes of security and surveillance. In a context where Muslim populations were viewed as “incipient terrorists” ––suspect minorities who remained peripheral to the national vision of unity, cohesion, and progress ¬¬–– the relationship between the Indian military and local communities was marked by uncertainty and distrust. Yet, the military provided a viable source of income and livelihood opportunities as well as a vision of modernity and development. This paper explores how the military’s counterinsurgency apparatus successfully infiltrated domains of belongingness, community, and democracy and legitimized its goals of national security and surveillance. In particular, it explores how several Muslim communities in Kargil (that included Shia, Sunni and Noorbakshi groups) interpreted and engaged with the intense militarization of their lives, labor, and livelihoods? In a space where democracy and social justice were subservient to the agendas of militarism, how did local Muslim communities stake their claims to belongingness, citizenship and nationhood?


Saturday, Oct 29,

1:45 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Session VII, Panel 40 (ROUNDTABLE)

Migration, Transnationalism and Diaspora: Old and New Themes in Himalayan Studies
Organizer and Chair: Shneiderman, Sara, Yale University

This roundtable focuses on the dynamism of the Himalayan region. We explore various forms of mobility both within and beyond the region itself, working towards a shared understanding of how the themes of migration, transnationalism and diaspora have been in addressed in Himalayan Studies to date, and how they might be reconceptualized in the future. Individual speakers focus on the relationship between migration and territory in constructing contemporary Himalayan identities, rural-urban migration within China's Tibetan Autonomous region, diasporic consciousness among Nepali migrants to the UK, and the effects of international migration on Tamang village communities in Nepal. Taken together, these presentations demonstrate that the Himalayas are an ideal location to explore broader themes central to so many scholarly and political endeavors today, and suggest several directions in which to take Himalayan Studies beyond the ‘Indo-Tibetan Interface’.

Trans-Himalayan Citizens (Sara Shneiderman, Yale University)

This presentation explores the relationships between the concepts of indigeneity, territory and mobility in shaping contemporary Himalayan identities. I look at the historical focus on 'trans-Himalayan' mobilities to suggest how we might find ways to talk about identity in the region that acknowledges both the importance of territorial attachment and the realities of mobile lifestyles—two apparently contradictory trends that characterize many Himalayan lives today.

Migration, Family Change, and Elderly Care (Geoff Childs, Washington University in St Louis)

Regional and global economic developments have opened opportunities for Tibetans living in China and the highlands of Nepal to become more mobile. One result is an increase in internal and international migration in order to meet an increasing reliance on non-farm income through either seasonal wage-labor or permanent migration. Because the propensity to migrate varies by age, migration is inducing demographic changes in rural villages across the region. Such changes raise many questions, including: Who will provide care for the elderly? Elderly people in Tibetan societies depend upon their families to provide care in old age. In a family system that prioritizes patrilocal post-marital residence, care giving duties traditionally fall to a co-resident son (or sons in a polyandrous household) and his wife (the parents' daughter-in-law). However, the increasing mobility of young people has the potential to disrupt this system and leave many elderly people without care givers at a time when health improvements are increasing their longevity. In this roundtable I will discuss the implications of this emerging issue and some of the new strategies the elderly are using to ensure help in old age.

Diasporic consciousness among Nepalis in the UK (Gellner, David, University of Oxford)

Migration, whether temporary, circular, or permanent, was more or less a fundamental aspect of life for large parts of Nepal for as long as there have been records. None the less, since the 1980s migration has become an even more important part of Nepali life in general and a central stage of even more Nepalis’ lives in particular. The UK diaspora has certain distinctive features, particularly the numerical preponderance of ex-Gurkhas. Simultaneously, ethnic, regional, professional, religious, and pan-Nepali forms of organization have all proliferated. Though some would argue that it is premature to call Nepalis settled in the UK a diaspora, there is, it is fair to say, a considerable ‘diasporic consciousness’ – though not yet much sign of a desire to return.

Festivals, Phones & Facebook (Kathryn March, Cornell University)

As dramatic numbers of ethnic Tamang from the mid-hill peasant community of Mhanégang, Nepal, move to live, work and study around the world, moments of empowerment and creativity coalesce in new celebrations, technologies, and social media. However precariously these moments are embedded within larger, and often overwhelming, structures of vulnerability and dislocation, they provide vital arenas within which young Tamang today are refashioning themselves and their relationships. This presentation explores the ways in which families, and especially young couples, navigate lengthy separations across great geographical and experiential divides by participating in new festivals and communicating through new media.

1:45 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Session VII, Panel 41

Human Dimensions of Nature Conservation Models in the Himalayas
Organizer: Narayan P. Dhakal , University of Minnesota
Chair: David C. Fulton, University of Minnesota

The objectives of this panel are to: i) develop a social science research agenda on human dimensions of biodiversity; ii) initiate a dialogue about multidisciplinary collaborative research in coupled human and nature systems; and iii) integrate biological and social concerns for effective biodiversity conservation and management. Our spatial focus is high Himalayan landscapes of Nepal and India. The session will be organized around four paper presentations by different panelists followed by a focused discussion among the panelists. Each presentation will be 20 minutes long including 5 minutes for questions from the audience. After the paper presentations, we will have a 25 minute discussion session to begin a conversation that I hope will ultimately lead to a framework for identifying and guiding coordinated research.

Local residents’ perceptions of protected areas in Asia (Teri Allendorf, University of Wisconsin-Madison)doc

Local residents are critical to the successful conservation of protected areas, especially in densely populated Asia. In this paper, we examine people’s perceptions toward protected areas in Nepal, Myanmar, and China. In Myanmar we found a positive attitude toward the parks was most highly correlated with a perception of conservation and ecosystem service benefits and benefits resulting from management of the areas. In Nepal, we found that a positive attitude was best predicted by, in order, a perception of extraction, recreation, and conservation and ecosystem service benefits. The much greater effect of perceptions, rather than socio-economic status, on people’s attitudes indicates that understanding perceptions is important to improving the relationship between local residents and these PAs. The important role of positive attitudes underscores the fact that a focus on conflicts to understand people’s attitudes toward PAs may undervalue or miss critical positive perceptions that people hold. Understanding local residents’ perceptions of PAs makes possible the creation of strategic, place-based management strategies that build on people’s positive perceptions and mitigate their negative perceptions. Results from China and gender differences will also be discussed.

Acceptance Capacity for Tigers in Nepal: Implications for Conservation of Predators in Human-Dominated Landscapes (Neil Carter, Michigan State University)

Conserving endangered predator species may depend on the capacity of local people to tolerate impacts from those species. We used endangered tigers (Panthera tigris) in Nepal as a case study to explore the utility of a social-psychological framework, called Wildlife Acceptance Capacity (WAC), for conservation in regions of the world where human-predator conflicts are severe. We surveyed 499 individuals living <2km from Chitwan National Park, Nepal to record and quantify preferred future tiger population size (i.e., Tiger Acceptance Capacity [TAC]) and factors that may influence TAC. Results indicated that multiple dimensions of risk belief, attitudes towards tigers, and risk intolerance of threats to livelihoods and human health and safety were significantly associated with TAC. Overall, local people value tigers in a number of ways yet are intolerant to impacts tigers may have on their livelihood and well-being. Instead of focusing resources solely on altering the physical environment in which wildlife and humans interact, modifying the psychological context in which people perceive impacts (positive and negative) from endangered predators may achieve important conservation gains. This study has important implications for fostering a sustainable coexistence between people and conflict-prone wildlife, such as tigers, in Nepal and many other parts of the world.

Assessment of Residents’ Social and Economic Wellbeing and Perceived Biological Gains in Conservation Resettlement: A Case Study of Padampur, Chitwan National Park, Nepal (Narayan P. Dhakal, University of Minnesota)

Amid controversies in conservation resettlement, this study I investigated residents’ social and economic wellbeing following a citizen-initiated resettlement program in Padampur, Nepal. Most respondents reported being socially and economically better off in the new location. Residents’ economic livelihood is gradually changing from agro based to a cash and market based economy. Biologically the evacuated area is now a suitable habitat for tigers’ prey. I compared prey abundance between evacuated old Padampur and the park core area. I found prey abundance is significantly different with higher prey abundance in the evacuated area. Residents’ perceptions were that moving had positive benefits for biodiversity conservation with decreased pressure into the forest, decreased human wildlife conflicts, and more productive cattle. I emphasize the need for periodic post resettlement, economic and biological monitoring to understand the resident livelihood and prey predator dynamics. I suggest future conservation related resettlement consider lessons from the Padampur model.

Values for and Tolerance Towards Tigers in Madi Valley, Chitwan National Park, Nepal (Bhim Gurung, University of Minnesota)

"Human-tiger conflict poses a great challenge to wildlife managers, conservationists and local people alike. This conflict occurs mostly in areas where tigers and humans resource use overlap. I worked in Madi Valley, within the buffer zone of Chitwan National Park, Nepal where human-tiger conflict is common. I interviewed 400 men and women to understand their beliefs about the importance of tiger and level of tolerance towards tigers in conflict situations. I assessed respondents’ perceptions of tiger value and tolerance level with their socio-economic, resource use practices and experiences with tigers. Local people highly value but only have moderate tolerance for tigers. Regression analysis revealed values and tolerance for the tiger were significantly influenced by distance from the forest edge, gender and fuel-wood collection. Conservation education, improving compensation programs and local participatory approaches are suggested as technique that could increase tolerance levels for tigers.

3:45-4:45 p.m.

Session VIII: Panel 46

Plenary: Online Resources for Himalayan Studies: Research, Collaboration and Partnership (David Germano, University of Virginia; Mark Turin, Cambridge University and Yale University)

Established in 2000 by Cambridge University’s Department of Social Anthropology, the Digital Himalaya Project provides a vast online portal for hosting and disseminating wide-ranging knowledge about the Himalayan region to a demanding and fast-growing user base in South Asia and worldwide. Having attracted close to half a million web visitors since its founding, Digital Himalaya serves as an invaluable resource for researchers in, from or studying the Himalayan region.

The Project began as a strategy for collecting and protecting colonial-era ethnographic collections about the Himalayan region for posterity and for access by heritage communities. Today Digital Himalaya has become a wide-ranging collaborative digital publishing environment, bringing a new collection online every month. No longer a static homepage with occasional updates, the website is now a dynamic content delivery platform for over 40GB of archival census data, maps, films, audio recordings, photographs, journals and scanned books. Importantly, there have been dramatic changes in the profile of visitors to our site as well: from (overwhelmingly) members of European and American universities in the early years, to a well networked, global and digitally literate user community, in particular from South Asia.

The Tibetan and Himalayan Library is this summer launching an online publication on the cultural geography of Tibet and the Himalayas using powerful standards-based GIS technology, including an innovative gazetteer that automatically binds together images, audio, video, and scholarly essays based upon place. It also includes community-generated "ontologies" - or scholarly maps of areas of knowledge - which allow for infinite extensibility in structured studies of places, as well as community subject indexing of scholarly resources and analysis. Another aspect of the system is the ability to go from a rich, historical dictionary to detailed searching and analysis of historical texts, scholarly essays, and transcripts of audio-video resources. The audio-video initiative allows for the viewing of such recordings while switching seamlessly between interactive transcripts, subtitles, and speech bubbles in multiple languages. Users can also search the transcripts and go right from search results to corresponding media segments.

This is this now being offered overall as a publishing platform for Tibetanists and Himalayanists, whether to create web sites as a whole, or to use specific data services embedded within larger web sites. We will thus detail the various technical and data services, and discuss how such a platform can be used to benefit specific projects or fields as a whole.

5:00-6:15 p.m.

Plenary address

Pratyoush OntaThe past and future of Nepal Studies in Nepal.” 


Sunday, Oct 30,

9:30-11:15 a.m.

Session IX, Panel 48

Health and Healing in the Himalaya
Chair & Discussant: Ron Barrett, Macalester College

Social Ecologies and Subjectivities: Narratives of Health, Illness, and Medicines in Amdo (Qinghai Province, China) (Craig, Sienna Dartmouth College)

The practice of conducting illness narrative interviews and eliciting “explanatory models” (Kleinman 1980) of ill-health cross culturally occupies an important and varied place within medical anthropology and related disciplines. Such methodologies can be used to elicit and help make sense of the varied, pragmatic, and often deeply personal elements that combine to produce a range of human action around issues of suffering and well being in contexts of medical pluralism. Illness narratives can likewise be useful in understanding inter-subjective relationships between health care practitioners and patients, or in capturing ethnographically some of the nuance behind what those in the health sciences might call “health-seeking behavior.” This paper is based on in-depth semi structured illness narrative interviews (n=48) conducted in 2010 with approximately equal numbers of men and women from two culturally Tibetan regions in Qinghai Province, China. In this paper, I argue that illness narratives can also produce meaningful insights about the social ecologies in which experiences of suffering and quests for wellness occur, in ways that are at once interpretive, focusing on individual subjectivities, and that also account for the environmental and political-economic contexts in which such narratives of health, illness, and the quest for medicine(s) occurs.

9:30-11:15 a.m.

Session IX, Panel 49

Democratization, Politics and Education in Bhutan

The Translation and Negotiation of Traditional and Scientific Systems of Knowledge in Bhutanese Community Forestry (Kyle Lemle, Bryce Rosenbower, Robin R. Sears, Sonam Phuntsho)

This paper explores the impact of implementing community forestry on systems of environmental knowledge in Bhutan. In Bhutan, new policies are often created and evaluated using the four pillars of Gross National Happiness (GNH), a holistic national development model created by the Fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuk. In this light, it is important to study Bhutanese natural resource policy and management strategies not only for their impact on the “environment,” but also for how they work to preserve traditional “culture,” both being pillars of GNH. Since its introduction in the 1990s and more recent expansion, community forestry in Bhutan has evolved within the context of centrally planned devolution. Expansion of the program exists within an environment of recent democratization and aims to devolve authority and control over natural resources from central to local governments and communities. By returning management responsibility and user rights of local forests to villagers, community forestry seeks to enhance production of natural resources, ensure the maintenance and resiliency of environmental services as well as promote traditional culture. However, this study finds that implementing community forestry in rural communities does not so much recognize and promote local culture and knowledge related to forests as it introduces Western principles and practices of scientific forestry directly to villagers. In this paper we explore the tensions arising from contradictions between the stated goal of devolution and the apparent acceptance by villagers of the superiority of scientific knowledge and forestry. Specifically, we ask what forest knowledge is being transferred through community forestry initiatives, how it is transferred, and how the local and introduced knowledge systems are interacting.
This case study was performed using mixed qualitative social research methods, focusing primarily on interviews that were conducted from June 2010 through July 2011 with government and non-governmental Bhutanese officials, and with community members of four villages in Bumthang Dzongkhag. These rural communities demonstrated complex relationship to their local forests. Villagers extract timber and non-timber forest products necessary to sustain livelihoods, but also maintain a unique and intricate spiritual connection to the forest. Historically, Buddhist cosmology, coupled with local environmental and social realities have largely determined villagers’ management strategies and value systems in relation to their local ecology. The introduction of new authorities, language, and management approaches through community forestry has translated traditional and Western scientific epistemologies in the making of emergent environmental subjectivities in Bumthang, Bhutan.

In Search of Accountable Identity (Prashanti Pandit, University of Houston Clear Lake)

The Bhutanese people of Nepali ethnicity were disfranchised by the government of Bhutan and persecuted from their country. The Bhutanese refugees who are currently living in Nepal or any of the first world countries have maintained their cultural identity for five generations in Bhutan. However, after the Bhutanese government implemented One Nation One Culture or Bhutanization, the ethnic Nepali people were forced either to give up their citizenship rights and leave the country or to adopt the national culture, tradition, language, and costumes. The ethnic Nepali people were forced to speak Dzongkha and wear Gho and Kira. In the process of Bhutanization, the government of Bhutan violated several human rights of the people. The ethnic Nepali people of Bhutan lived in Nepal for around 19 years following the persecution. After several unsuccessful bilateral talks between the governments of Bhutan and Nepal, the qualified Bhutanese refugees are offered resettlement in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and several other countries. The paper will discuss human right violation, institutional racism and the assimilation process of the Bhutanese refugees in the United States as they travelled from Bhutan to Nepal to the United States and factors affecting the assimilation process.

9:30-11:15 a.m.

Session IX, Panel 50

Tracking Influences on Himalayan Buddhisms: Translation, Diplomacy, Literature
Chair: Todd Lewis
Discussant: David Germano

Tracing out Trends in Tibetan Translations (Erin H. Epperson, University of Chicago)

Despite the important role translation played in transmitting Indian Buddhism and Sanskritic culture into Tibet, Tibetan translation methods are underresearched in the field of Tibetan Studies. The well-known trope that Tibetan translations are inordinately faithful to the Sanskrit has been problematized by numerous scholars; however, few studies have attempted to systematically identify the methods employed by various Tibetan translators. Examining such translation methods is essential for historically grounding our understanding of the linguistic, grammatical, and poetic developments of the Tibetan language throughout the various translation periods. Further, translation is itself an interface for understanding the role of language and politics in the transmission of Sanskritic Indian culture into the Tibetan cultural realm. This paper will identify some of these methods through a systematic examination of the Cittaviśuddhiprakaraṇa, a text attributed to Āryadeva, for which in addition to the translation preserved in all editions of the Tengyur, the Narthang Tengyur preserved a second translation. My analysis questions the degree to which early late-spread Tibetan translators may have favored Sanskritic elements in their translations. I will also address broader implications for the role of translation as an important part of the Indo-Tibetan interface.

Tracking Buddhist Modernity in 20th Century Nepal: The Sources for Chittadhar Hridaya’s Sugata Saurabha (Todd T Lewis, College of the Holy Cross)

Every Buddhist community across Asia had a narrative tradition on the life of Shakyamuni, the Buddha. The particular editorial and doctrinal choices, small and large, made in local redactions from classical sources afford insight into the history of the domestication of Buddhism into each communities. This paper presents an overview of this process in the case of Sugata Saurabha, a life of the Buddha from the Newar community of the Kathmandu Valley. Written in the 1940-s by one of Nepal’s greatest poets, Chittadhar Hridaya, Sugata Saurabha has been a cultural landmark for modern Newar Buddhists, providing an extraordinarily learned narration of the great sage’s life. It also weaves in a repository of details about Newar culture through the author’s casting the Buddha’s life details in his own Nepalese context. This paper will discuss the text as a case study of Buddhist modernity in the mid-20th century: as a product of the author’s contact with classical sources, as well as with modern Hindi translations of the Pali Canon published by Rahul Sankrityayana, publications of the Mahabodhi Society, among still others. The paper will also trace connections between Sugata Saurabha and the author's location in mid-century Nepal.

Note for presenters: All classrooms have a data projector (LCD projector) with standard VGA and audio connections, an overhead transparency projector, and a white board. The rooms are not equipped with a computer, so please make sure to bring a laptop if you intend to use a computer for your presentation. All of our projectors use VGA cables to connect to computers; Macintosh computer users should bring their own video adapter (dongle) to connect to VGA.

The rooms have an ethernet connection to the internet and the College has a campus-wide guest wireless connection.

To best prepare, please test your laptop with a VGA projector on your campus and show up early to your session to get connected. We strongly recommend that every panel hook up just one laptop and everyone on the panel who wishes to show slides bring their presentation on flashdrives. Panelists should organize this among themselves. Bring your own clicker if you want to advance slides with a remote—we don’t have these.





Design and coding: Milan Shrestha