2013 Senior Fellowship Award Winner
The Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies is pleased to announce the 2013 Senior Fellowship award winner, Christie Lai Ming Lam, for her proposal titled Rural Coping Mechanisms: A Case Study of Socio-Economic Impacts of Remittances on Indigenous Rana Tharus in Far-Western Nepal. Congratulations to Dr. Lam! ANHS thanks Professor Paul Karan for chairing the Senior Fellowship Committee, and to the scholars who reviewed the many excellent research proposals submitted.
Dr. Lam is Assistant Professor of Anthropology, School of Human Sciences, Osaka University, Osaka, Japan.
Project Title: Rural Coping Mechanisms: A Case Study of Socio-Economic Impacts of Remittances on Indigenous Rana Tharus in Far-Western Nepal
Research Abstract: This project examines socio-economic impacts of international remittances on indigenous Rana Tharus (hereafter referred to as Ranas). Indigenous communities worldwide have been increasingly impoverished due to the loss of access to forest resources, changes in landownership and the expansion of the monetary economy. However, the social implications of complex coping strategies that traditional communities use to diversify their means of livelihood have to date received only limited attention. This study is based on my previous analysis of the impacts caused by the establishment of Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve, specifically on the livelihood system of indigenous Ranas in the far-western Nepal. Facing increasing impoverishment, seeking employment overseas has become the new livelihood coping strategy for Ranas. In this project, I will conduct an ethnographic analysis of the daily lives of Ranas who are working overseas, mainly in Malaysia (the second most popular overseas working destination for Nepali migrant workers). This detailed ethnographic information on Ranas from the migrant-host-country (Malaysia) and then matching them with my previous ethnographic data in the migrant-source-country (Nepal) will help explore the remittance patterns of the indigenous Rana community and the socio-cultural and economic implications at the local level of working abroad. Specifically, the study examines the role of remittances in income diversification strategies and how it reshapes Rana households’ cultural identity, inter-caste relations and social capital. More importantly, the study explores to what extent international remittance as a coping strategy can resolve poverty and lead to indigenous groups like the Ranas enjoying some degree of upward social mobility. Besides contributing to a better understanding of the current welfare status of indigenous Rana communities, this study allows us to better gauge the dynamic interactions between household coping mechanisms and the global economy.