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Cultural flows in the Singalila borderlands: Trans-border linkages in East-Nepal, Sikkim and Darjeeling

This panel seeks to explore how cultural transfers across the international border between East-Nepal and the Sikkim-Darjeeling region contribute to shape the region and people’s agency, knowledge and practices. It brings together studies on cultural transfers within these borderlands in various fie

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Convenors:

· Martin Gaenszle Department of South Asian, Tibetan and Buddhist Studies (Vienna, Austria)
· Prem Chhetri CIRDIS University of Vienna (Vienna, Austria)

Long Abstract

The Singalila region has been a borderland region since the early 19th century. The international border between East-Nepal and the Sikkim-Darjeeling region of India has split up the local population along the lines of nation-states and citizenship. This is particularly manifest in the case of the Kiranti, a cluster of ethnic groups which includes the Limbu, Rai, Sunuwar and Yakha (and some others) who share a common memory as well as similar and interconnected cultural practices. Following van Schendel (2002), we argue that considering the social space on both sides of the border line allows an understanding of the social, cultural and historical transformations, and the economic dynamics of borderlands. This panel seeks to explore how cultural transfers based on social interaction and human networks across the international border contribute to shape the region and local people’s agency, knowledge and practices. This panel brings together studies on cultural transfers within the Singalila borderlands in various fields: rituals, politics, literature, linguistics, history, social relations (marriage, work, etc.). The growing interest in border dynamics in social sciences has firstly given a new strength to historical studies in the region as a means to understand socio-political dynamics in the larger region of the eastern Himalayas. Various political strategies, such as reinforcing the border, ignoring it, and crossing it, are simultaneously and creatively used by people in the region in order to give social and political strength to their community. This panel will also focus on trans-border religious flows: how is the border approached in ritual practices?

Presentations