The Retreat of “Father White Glacier” – Gagné
This talk will cover temporal dimension of a glacier-related practice in Ladakh in the Indian Himalayas and focuses on contention over its performance in the current context of climate change. According to villagers of Tingmosgang, the local gzhi bdag, which is seen as the protector of the village main glacier, is “stubborn”: very often, it prevents the seasonal melt of glacier water, crucial to the success of the farming season, unless it is properly propitiated through skyin jug. Performed throughout the Sham Valley of Ladakh when a bride departs her natal household, the ceremony of skyin jug is ritualistically mimicked by the villagers in order to placate the local gzhi bdag while it reiterates, through implorations, the filiation between the villagers and the glacier. Today, erratic meteorological patterns and the recession of glaciers, two phenomena attributable to climate change, are generating recurring water problem in spring during the critical sowing season. While some villagers would like to address this problem by attending to the local gzhi bdag, many others are apathetic about the situation. In locating skyin jug within traditional marriage folkloric tradition from the region, I examine how landscape filiation was once a significant dimension of ritual life in the Buddhist Himalayas, but which, I argue, has lost centrality due to the growing estrangement from the environment. In doing so, I hope to demonstrate that response to climate change is not uniform within communities and that it relates to a sense of place.
Bio: Karine Gagné is a Postdoctoral Associate at the Department of Anthropology at Yale. Her work examines the intersection between the material environment, embodied knowledge and environmental ethics. Her research work is based in Ladakh in the Indian Himalayas and her further interests include questions related to temporality, Buddhism and everyday life, moral ambiguity and the way humanity is constituted through human and non-human interactions.
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