Culture and the Environment in the Himalaya
For the last half-century, scholarship on human-environment relations in the Himalaya has focused on two broad areas. The first is the “Theory of Himalayan Environmental Degradation” (THED) which holds that the pressure of a growing population on mountain resources has generated an environmental crisis of deforestation, soil degradation etc. This thesis has been challenged during the last two decades by scholars who argue that it was greatly oversimplified, ahistorical and based on inadequate research. The second is the study by anthropologists and cultural geographers of the ways in which human populations in the Himalaya utilize the environment; these are in the main studies of ethno-ecological knowledge. The goal of the present volume is to shift the focus of research into human environment relations in the Himalaya to a different set of questions: those concerning how different populations in the region understand or conceive of the concept of environment, how their concepts vary across lines of gender, class, age, status, etc, how these concepts impact on actual biophysical processes and the implications for policy makers in the fields of environmental conservation and development. These are questions that have been insufficiently addressed not only in the literature on the Himalaya, but more generally in writings on the environment in South Asia. Nevertheless such questions mark a shift in anthropological thinking (exemplified by the developing field of environmental anthropology as opposed to cultural ecology) and in geography. This book seeks to introduce the new thinking in these disciplines into the study of the Himalaya and to use Himalayan ethnography to interrogate and critique contemporary theorizing about the environment.
Arjun Guneratne. Culture and the Environment in the Himalaya. New York and London: Routledge, 2010.