Youthful Visions of Tribal Futurity in the Indian Himalayas

Authors: Mabel Gergan*, Vanderbuilt University
Topics: Indigenous Peoples, Political Geography
Keywords: Indigenous/Tribal Futurity; Himalayan Region; Youth Politics
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 30
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This paper draws on ethnographic research to think through questions of territory and temporality, from the lens of young people from the Indian Himalayan region of Ladakh and Sikkim. In Sikkim, these young people belong to the Lepcha tribe from the Dzongu reserve, a place that has been the site of a youth-led anti-dam movement since 2007. In Ladakh, these are college students from different class backgrounds, pursuing higher education in major Indian cities. Young people in both contexts articulate a vision of a future where tribal* youth have a greater say in decision-making processes that currently exclude their communities. The familiar anxieties of borderland minorities infuse these youthful visions of tribal futurity. In Sikkim, disastrous hydropower projects threaten regional ecology along with the future of livelihood opportunities like eco-tourism and agriculture. While in Ladakh, the region’s underdevelopment is understood as stemming from the lack of political autonomy, and with regards to young people, dismal higher education and employment opportunities Young people’s desire for futures where tribal communities have more autonomy, challenges the Indian state’s territorial and temporal frameworks; both colonial inheritances weaponized by state elites to place tribal groups into civilizational categories while displacing them from their lands for corporate interests. Drawing on decolonial and critical Indigenous scholarship (Tuck 2009; Simpson 2014; Rifkin 2017; Byrd 2014; Tuck and Yang 2012) I think through how Himalayan tribal youth imagine and enact their visions of tribal futurity.

*Tribal here refers to the India's constitutionally recognized category of "Scheduled Tribe"

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