talk | 3 August 2012

‘Once We Were in the Centre’: Trade and the Aftermath of Development in Humla, Nepal

Paper presented at the Berkeley Summer Research Institute, Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, 2223 Fulton Street, Berkeley, 3 August 2012, 12:00.


Upper Humla, an area in western Nepal bordering the Tibet Autonomous Region, has lost much of its prosperity over the past five decades. The region’s recent history has been shaped by modernization efforts and development initiatives on both sides. However, contrary to the common conception that Communist reform in Tibet dismantled the traditional economic foundation of trade-based Himalayan livelihoods, I argue that different forces were at work in the case of Upper Humla. Three benevolent development initiatives in public health, wildlife conservation, and community forestry triggered the decline. The “second lives” of successful development, rather than the side-effects of modernist planning, are responsible for Upper Humla’s current predicament.


This conference paper served as the basis for the following publication:

Saxer, Martin. 2013. Between China and Nepal: Trans-Himalayan Trade and the Second Life of Development in Upper Humla. Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review 8 (September 2013): 31-52.