Himalayan connections

by Alice Oates

Himalayan Connections: Melting glaciers, sacred landscapes and mobile technologies in a Changing Climate

Pembroke Fellow Dr Hildegard Diemberger (MIASU, Social Anthropology) has been awarded funding by the Research Council of Norway for a new project, an international collaboration between Cambridge led by:  Dr Hildegard Diemberger and Professor Bhaskar Vira (Geography) with Dr Riamsara Knapp and Norway led by: Professor Hanna Havnevik with Dr Astrid Hovden.

With partners in Nepal and Bhutan, the project explores the hazards experienced by vulnerable communities in high altitude environments as a result of climate change and will document the community’s historical mechanisms for environmental management to deal with different scenarios of living in a hazardous environment. These mechanisms will be examined in light of the arrival of new communication technologies and new knowledges and framing discourses around climate change and sustainable development. Through an exceptional confluence of events and access to centuries of historical documents, this project will explore the complexities of environmental perception and decision-making at a pivotal moment of change in a high-altitude community in the Himalaya. Limi in Humla, western Nepal is experiencing repeated glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) at the same time as the advent of new connectivities such as mobile telephony.

This project’s findings will provide a ground-breaking contribution to the analysis of Himalayan environmental management, while its novel methodology has the potential to alter how, and the extent to which, in-depth case studies may be scaled out to contribute to regional, national and international level analyses of human-environment interactions in the context of sustainable development, specifically key NORGLOBAL-2 thematic areas and SDG goals.

Dr Diemberger’s research interests are: Tibet and the Himalayas and Tibet-Mongolia interface; local-state dynamics and deals with the impact of radical change on traditional communities; landscape, space and time; climate change and local–global connections; local history and memory; changing notions of power and kinship; gender, anthropology of Buddhism, history of the book and media; and debates over continuity, tradition and modernity.