A Landscape of Lived Religion in Nepal | Chris Crews on Sacred Himalaya Research Trip

ICI Research Associate Chris Crews was part of our research group that recently traveled to the far western district of Humla in Nepal as part of our new Sacred Himalaya Initiative. One of his reflection pieces was recently published on the State of Formation religious blog where he is a Contributing Scholars.

I recently returned from a month of fieldwork and research in Humla, the northwestern district of Nepal bordering Tibet and India. I was there as part of a research initiative focused on the concept of sacred landscapes in the Himalaya, with special interest in the pilgrimage routes leading to Mount Kailash (Kang Rinpoche in Tibetan) and Lake Manasarovar. These two geographic features, located on the Tibetan Plateau northwest of Nepal, have served as the focal point for millions of religious pilgrims from a wide range of traditions for centuries. Both are considered sacred sites by Buddhists, Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Bönpos, as well as many syncretic and animist traditions still thriving in the region.

Although I have been doing research on sacred landscapes for several years, this was my first time going to Nepal and walking some of these trans-Himalayan pilgrimage routes that have been used for generations by people within this region. Spending a month traversing this beautiful yet challenging landscape gave me a renewed appreciation for those religious devotees who commit to such an undertaking, as well as the people who have made this area their home. While I wasn’t traveling intentionally as a religious practice, I nonetheless felt a powerful sense of purpose and awe as we climbed mountains, descended valleys and explored the landscape.

One of the most poignant observations for me was how deeply embedded religious symbolism and meaning is within the landscape, far more than I have ever felt in my travels in northern India or southern China. Some of this influence is a function of the Tibetan Buddhist culture of Humla and the Limi Valley area we were in. But even the more Hindu-dominated areas closer to the district capital of Simikot still had a certain sacredness that was distinct. While some of this has to do with the distinct rural mountain folk culture of western Nepal, even in the heart of the Kathmandu Valley and the capital there was a sense of this pervasive religious influence unlike anywhere I have traveled before.

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Social Justice and Dalits in South Asia | Event Recap and Video

If you missed our recent event on Social Justice and Dalits in South Asia, not to worry. You can watch a video of the talk below. With a combination of multimedia, personal testimony, and audience Q&A, the event provided a rich opportunity for those in attendance to learn more about and discuss contemporary issues facing dalit communities in South Asia and other parts of the world, as well as talk about strategies and challenges in organizing for dalit rights. Moderated by Smita Narula, a leading scholar on dalit issues and a human rights advocate. She was joined by Sarita Pariyar, Rem Bishwokarma, and Padam Sundas, three leading dalit rights advocates from Nepal.

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Background Readings: What is the Relevance of Marxism in the 21st Century?

Please find below the background readings for “What is the Relevance of Marxism in the 21st Century?” – a talk by Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, Prime Minister of Nepal.

ICI Announces Two New Academic Directors

The New School has named Mark Frazier, professor of politics, and Sanjay Reddy, associate professor of economics, academic directors of the India China Institute (ICI), a leading center of trans-regional study. Frazier and Reddy will develop the ICI’s exploration of the relationships between India, China and the United States by launching new research programs and partnerships between The New School and other global institutions.

“Discussions of relations between China and India tend to assume that their future will be one of either cooperation or conflict,” said Frazier. “ICI programming and research present a more complex picture of the dense networks and lively exchange of ideas and technologies among Chinese and Indians. This understudied pattern of mutual, non-state exchanges has been a recurring theme over the past two millennia.”

Founded by The New School in 2004, ICI supports research, teaching and discussion on the relationships between India and China, two of the world’s emerging economic and political powers, and their interactions with the United States. Directed by Ashok Gurung, ICI is the hub of a robust international network of scholars, leaders, and opinion-makers, which encourages discussion and exchange through fellowships, courses, public events, publications, and inter-institutional collaboration. ICI has recently hosted visits from leading international voices including Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai of Nepal; Nirupama Rao, Indian Ambassador to the United States; and authors Liao Yiwu, Philip Gourevitch and Salman Rushdie.

“India and China represent rising nations states and civilizational spaces which scholarship and teaching in the United States cannot afford to ignore,” said Reddy. “They are jointly reshaping the world economy, polity and society.”

To his new role, Mark Frazier brings two decades of research on political economy and labor politics in China and on Chinese-Indian relations. Frazier, who most recently served as ConocoPhillips Professor of Chinese Politics and director of International and Area Studies at the University of Oklahoma, earned his PhD in political science from the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of Socialist Insecurity: Pensions and the Politics of Uneven Development in China (Cornell, 2010) and The Making of the Chinese Industrial Workplace: State, Revolution and Labor Management (Cambridge, 2002). A former journalist, Frazier’s work for Roll Call was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

Sanjay Reddy has served at The New School for Social Research in 2009. His research focuses on global political economy, development and poverty, with a particular focus on contemporary India. In addition to having taught at Columbia, Princeton, and Harvard, from which he earned his PhD in economics, Reddy has consulted for development agencies and institutions like Oxfam, UNICEF and the World Bank. He is the author of Understanding India’s New Political Economy: A Great Transformation? (Routledge, 2011) and International Trade and Labor Standards: A Proposal for Linkage (Columbia, 2008).

This fall the ICI will also welcome five fellows in Social Innovation for Sustainable Environments. Hailing from India, China and the United States, the fellows will conduct and present research and instruct New School courses.

The 2012 Social Innovation for Sustainable Environments Fellows are:
Dong Shikui, Professor at the School of Environment, Beijing Normal University (China)
Jayanta Bandyopadhyay, Professor and Head of the Centre for Development and Environment Policy, Public Policy and Management, India Institute of Management, Calcutta (India)
Sanjay Chaturvedi, Professor of Political Science, Punjab University, Chandigarh (India)
Victorial Marshall, Assistant Professor of Urban Design, Parsons The New School for Design (USA)
Nidhi Srinivas, Associate Professor of Nonprofit Management, the Milano School of International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy at The New School (USA)

ERSEH Project Groups

Four Thematic Groups were formed during the October, 2010 Conference, consisting of esteemed scholars from India, China, Nepal and the United States. Each group will work on a collaborative project addressing a different aspect of the ERSEH initiative. Bios of the participants can be found here.

A. Atlas/mapping of the continuities and changes in sacred conceptions of the environment:
– David Germano
– Pankaj Jain
– Mark Larrimore
– Thomas Mathew
– Tudeng Nima
– Pitambar Sharma
– Dong Shikui

B. Dynamics of local knowledge and practices:
– Anil Chitrakar
– Kul Chandra Gautam
– LHM Ling
– Sonam Puntso
– KC Sivaramakrishnan
– Anne Rademacher
– Chukey Wangchuck

C. Urbanization/migration/ globalization:
– Elizabeth Alison
– Narendra Bajracharya
– Sanjay Chaturvedi
– Ashok Gurung
– Xiaoli Shen
– Cameron Tonkinwise

D. Bridging institutions and perspectives: monastery/temple, civil society, government, science-culture interface:
– Du Fachun
– Sumitra M. Gurung
– Nimmi Kurian
– Mahendra Lama
– Deepak Tamang
– Sara Winter

October Inaugural Workshop Resources

The official launch of ERSEH took place at at 5-day workshop in Kathmandu, Nepal (October 24-28, 2010). Thirty scholars and experts from India, China, Nepal, Bhutan, and United States, representing the disciplines of religious studies, environmental studies, international affairs, and Himalayan studies, collaboratively developed the foundational research questions, established project goals, and, began to build a community of experts to explore new perspectives in religion, sustainability, and their policy implications.

Faculty members from The New School — Ashok Gurung, L.H.M. Ling, Cameron Tonkinwise, Mark Larrimore, and Sara Winter — make up the core members of ERSEH.
They led small group discussions on the themes of:
– Dynamics of local knowledge and practices
– Urbanization/migration/globalization)
– Mapping continuities and changes in sacred conceptions of the environment

(See workshop agenda, full list of participants and their bios, and research questions below.)

Culminating with a range of interpretations and perspectives, the workshop was a strong starting point to grapple with the complexities of international environmental policy and the role of religion within it. It laid the groundwork for the next few years as ICI continues to spearhead further inquires on the Himalayas’ pressing issue of environmental policy and climate change.

FINAL_LuceProjectSummary
FINAL_KTMWorkshop_Questions
FINAL_ParticipantBios

Videos

Feb. 17, 2011 Madame Nirupama Rao Speaks at the New School

Dec. 1. 2009 China, India and Global Capitalism

Dec. 3, 2009 China, India, Brazil and South Africa In The World Economy Part 1

Dec. 3, 2009 China, India, Brazil and South Africa In The World Economy Part 2

Dec. 3, 2009 The Peace Process in Nepal: Is it Failing? Part 1

Dec. 3, 2009 The Peace Process in Nepal: Is it Failing? Part 2

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