Saturday, March 09, 2013

Himalayan connections

Our ERSEH conference was planned to overlap with a conference of the Yale Himalaya Initiative called "Himalayan Connections: Disciplines, Geographies, Trajectories," so all of us piled into a bus after our gig ended yesterday and headed up to New Haven. (Us was perhaps twenty participants in our conference, from India, Nepal, China, Germany, France, Britain, US.) This made it a true India China Institute trip, with all the disarming conviviality of traveling together to picturesque spots, eating together in restaurants at long tables... At the Indian restaurant where we dined last night I ended up with all the Nepalis (including my friends from Darjeeling, who are ethnic Nepalis), who've decided to adopt me. A Nepali name is in the works! I newar expected...
And at the Yale event I met an ex-student whom I haven't seen in perhaps sixteen years (although we're Facebook friends... go figure!), a freshly tenured professor of anthropology at a liberal arts college upstate. His contribution to the discussion (the most thought-provoking, at least for me) was to focus on movements of people - a characteristic of Himalayan life for a long time - and to ask how far, in consequence, the Himalaya can be said to reach. (The nascent field of Himalayan studies seems to build on existing communities of scholars of Nepal and of Tibet, but tends to focus on the steep and dramatic "south slope," the Indian side; from the "north slope," the Tibetan Plateau, it's much harder to say where the Himalaya begins.) He is interested not only in Himalayan diasporas but also in the movements of people into the Himalayan areas, notably the growing number of Chinese religious tourists to Tibet. When one of them hangs a tankga bought on his travels in his apartment Beijing, isn't that Himalaya, too?

Update: the Nepali name is Mark Bahadur Shrestha. 

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