2019 Dor Bahadur Bista Prize Winner
The winner of the 2019 Dor Bahadur Bista Prize is Stefan Lüder, a PhD candidate at the Institute for Asian and African Studies at Humboldt University, Berlin. Lüder’s paper, “Beyond the ‘Historical Island’: Jaya Prithvi Bahadur Singh and Himalayan Humanism in the Early 20th Century,” explores the life and work of the now-forgotten Himalayan intellectual, Jaya Prithvi Bahdur Singh, and demonstrates his presence at the European centers of humanistic debate and advocacy on the post-WWI world stage. In so doing, the paper makes a significant contribution to Himalayan Studies while simultaneously demonstrating the relevance of Himalayan actors and agencies to Global History and scholarship beyond national and regional boundaries.
Lüder’s paper was one of five strong submissions that the committee considered this year. The applicants represented four different disciplines (Anthropology, Asian and African Area Studies, Development Studies, and History), and are enrolled at universities in Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Stefan Lüder’s Abstract:
A natural, almost insurmountable border between the Tibetan plateau and the subcontinent of South Asia, to this day the Himalayan region is perceived as isolated and remote. In academic debates the region is always finds itself at the periphery of discursively defined sub-divisions of Asia, i.e. between South Asia, Southeast Asia and Central Asia. Meanwhile, historiography and historical research in the Himalaya remains largely within national narratives, thereby, largely ignoring historical interconnections, entanglements and interdependencies transcending imagined – and often politically motivated – regional and national boundaries. As a result, paraphrasing Michael A. Bernardo’s (2011) assessment, the Himalaya continues to be understood as a historical island surrounded by a sea of historical activity. In an attempt to address this historiographical desiderate, my paper follows the life and works of a Himalayan intellectual by the name Jaya Prithvi Bahadur Singh. Today, Jaya Prithvi Bahadur Singh as well as most of his work and ideas are almost completely forgotten in Himalayan historiography while scholars of Global History have never heard of him. To counter this phenomenon, my paper seeks to address the following research questions: Who was Jaya Prithvi Bahadur Singh and why is his life and work relevant to dismantle hegemonic national narratives of the past in Asia? I propose the hypothesis that Jaya Prithvi’s specific way of thinking about humanity constitutes a philosophical approach in its own right, which I will, therefore, coin Himalayan Humanism. Moreover, I will argue that the exploration and analysis Jaya Prithvi’s life and work has great potential to contribute to overcome the insular perspective and perception of Himalayan history and historiography, render translocal, transregional and even global historical entanglements of the region with the rest of the world visible and, finally, enrich broader issues and debates that animate scholarship beyond Asia, e.g. Global Intellectual History.
The Dor Bahadur Bista Prize is awarded annually to a paper authored by a current graduate student in any of the academic disciplines in the social sciences, humanities, and arts. The prize honors the life, career, and service of Dor Bahadur Bista, Nepal’s first anthropologist and former Honorary President of the ANHS predecessor organization, the Nepal Studies Association (NSA). The purpose of the Prize is to recognize outstanding scholarship by students whose research focuses on the areas of High Asia (Hindu Kush – Karakoram – Himalaya – Tibetan Plateau) that comprise the principal interests of ANHS.