talk | 25 May 2012

Neighbouring China in Northern Nepal: Hidden Valleys, New Roads and Remote Cosmopolitans

Talk at the School of Anthropology and Musuem Ethnology, University of Oxford, Pitt Rivers Museum Lecture Theatre, 25 May 2012 at 15:30.


The high Himalayan valleys of northern Nepal were once important pathways for trade between Central and South Asia. With the incorporation of Tibet into the People’s Republic of China and the decline of the erstwhile trade in salt and grain these old trade routes lost their importance and the region became a remote periphery.

Recently, however, new roads have been constructed, leading from the Tibetan Plateau down to the Nepal border and into Nepalese territory. A highly volatile and informal ‘free market zone’ has emerged along these roads. For many people living in the Himalayan borderlands, these new roads hold the promise of bringing back old prosperity and end the relatively recent, ‘modern’ curse of remoteness.

Based on recent field research in Humla along two ancient trade routes, I explore the recent history of neighbouring China in northern Nepal. I suggest the notion of “remote cosmopolitans” as a starting point to rethink the history and present of trans-Himalayan trade and highland agro-pastoralism.


A podcast of this talk is available at