Cultural Analysis of Environmental Precarity and Adaptation in the Eastern Himalayas

Suchismita Das

This project examines how Indian citizens of the Eastern Himalayan borderlands of Sikkim experience environmental vulnerability when recurrent landslides wash away arterial roads, isolating and marginalising them from the mainland. The study will offer an anthropological understanding of how people perceive environmental vulnerability in culturally specific ways and evolve culturally specific strategies to adapt to such vulnerability in the eastern Himalayan state of Sikkim. While migration as a form of environmental adaptation has received attention, this study will analyse how citizens deal with immobilisation as an effect of environmental vulnerability. While cultural studies of adaptation in Sikkim limit themselves to focusing on specific ethnic groups and their traditional practices, this study will examine the dynamic cultural practices evolving across the state, in response to changing environmental conditions. The project will analyse how citizens, politicians, bureaucrats and engineers in the Himalayas address environmental vulnerability and adaptation differently, informed by their cultural beliefs, political motives and scientific knowledge.