WORLD ANTHROPOLOGICAL UNION

CONGRESS 2024​

SELECTED PANEL

( pn59 )

Himalayan Anthropology: Exploring Institutions, Elitism and Studying Up

Organizers

    Man Bahadur Khattri

    Nepal

    Central Department of Anthropology, Tribbhuvan University

    Face to Face/ On Site - Presence

    Rajanikant Pandey

    India

    Central University Jharkhanda, India

    Face to Face/ On Site - Presence

    Binod Pokharel

    Nepal

    Central Department of Anthropology, Tribbhuvan University, Nepal

    Face to Face/ On Site - Presence

IUAES Affiliation: Anthropology, Public Policy and Development Practice

IUAES Affiliation: Indigenous Knowledge and Sustainable Development

Keywords:

common property resources, Himalaya, livelihood, socio-economic religious institutions, studying up

Abstract:

The Himalayas stand as a magnificent natural landmark serving as the habitat and sustenance for numerous species, encompassing the extended region of the Himalayas. Traditionally, anthropologists focus on local self-organized and self-governing socio-cultural and politico-economic institutions among the Himalayan indigenous communities with diverse social, religious, and linguistic backgrounds co-existing for generations. Anthropological findings have highlighted the value of these institutions in managing common-property resources in the fragile mountain terrain to ensure the livelihoods of these communities for generations. These institutions help maintain culture-nature harmony and cope with challenges of development infrastructure, globalization and tourism, and strenuous livelihood. Anthropologists have adroitly documented and analyzed “socio-cultural and politico-economic institutions” in the domains of social structure, culture, and religion, natural resource management (vis-à-vis livelihood issues, and governance processes for ensuring equity and sustainability and indigenous responses for coping with new climate change issues) adopting a myriad of theoretical perspectives, viz. structural-functional, symbolic, political-economic, common property, and ecological perspectives. Anthropological studies have demonstrated that local elites have traditionally played an instrumental role in “crafting socio-cultural and politico-economic institutions” democratically in their communities for prosperity and well-being in a relatively equitable and sustainable way. Despite their traditional socio-political, economic, and institutional dominance in peasant societies with pre-capitalist socio-economic formations, they play an important role in the local governance in many aspects of community life. It follows as a corollary that their social standing also influences them to be positioned in their respective communities to play an instrumental role in the “construction”, “analysis” and “interpretation” of “ethnographic knowledge” in the capacity of “key informants” for anthropologists (both indigenous and exogenous). Objectively speaking from an anthropological standpoint, the local traditional elites and elite-centric institutions, such as national political, economic/business, bureaucratic, judicial, and academic, bi-lateral, multi-lateral, and international non-governmental, and local civil societies, have a preponderant influence on the selection of the core topics for anthropological studies in the contemporary social world. Against this backdrop, effort needs to be made by the anthropologists working in the Himalayas to conduct anthropological studies with “academic” and “policy” ramifications, including for the effective implementation of Sustainable Development Goals-SDGs and reduction of the ever-widening economic, social and political inequalities between the local elites and the marginalized/socially excluded communities. The panel aims to “generate contemporary anthropological debates/discussions on the role of elite-centric institutions that could influence the “discourse of anthropological knowledge creation” with conceptual idea of “studying up” as suggested by Laura Nadar. This approach has underscored the policy research as well as reflexive immersions since 1970s in anthropology. Anthropological research with this idea in the Himalayan ecosystem, however, is limited. Hence, this panel of anthropological researchers will fill up the “knowledge gaps” with new “multi-disciplinary” and “transdisciplinary” research.