The Yale Himalaya Initiative held a consultation workshop in Kathmandu, Nepal, on August 12, 2012. The day-long event brought Yale faculty together with scholars and professionals from across the region to share ideas and develop directions for future research and collaboration in the Himalaya.
Organized in conjunction with local partners Social Science Baha, World Wildlife Fund-Nepal, and Asia Network for Sustainable Agriculture and Bioresources (ANSAB), the workshop highlighted the breadth of current research on the Himalayan region, as well as the need for greater transregional and interdisciplinary collaboration.
Hosted by Sir Peter Crane, Dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies; K. Sivaramakrishnan, Chair of the Yale South Asian Studies Council at Yale; and Mark Turin, Program Director of the Yale Himalaya Initiative (YHI), the workshop sought feedback from regional participants on YHI’s emerging themes of environment, livelihood and culture. YHI aims to create new paradigms for cross-disciplinary, transboundary research, while also strengthening opportunities for collaboration between students and researchers in the Himalaya and abroad. Essential to this agenda is ensuring sustained engagement with the work of local institutions. In this way, YHI aims to foster more fulfilling collaborations between scholars, policy makers and other stakeholders across the Himalaya.
This summer’s workshop provided a forum for Nepal-based organizations and researchers to share knowledge about their work and strategies, and for invited colleagues from the Indian Himalaya to engage with them. The result was an exciting convergence of interdisciplinary approaches and ideas. The 29 presentations were organized into five sessions covering “Himalayan Environments,” “Academic NGOs and Research,” “Religion, Culture, and Livelihoods,” “Natural Resources and the State,” and the relationship between universities and the Himalaya. The discussion time reserved at the end of each session provided space for a series of lively exchanges that carried on into lunch and over tea breaks.
Participants shared their experiences of working in varied research contexts, from public and private universities to academic and applied NGOs. Many speakers addressed the challenges that they themselves have faced in the face of rapid environmental, social, and political changes within the Himalaya. Common themes that emerged included the productive tensions between scholarship and practice—whether in relation to rural development or cultural preservation—and the political economies of research which shape outcomes in particular locales. Participants also articulated the strengths and limitations of disciplinary or sectoral research, highlighting the need for better collaboration and sharing across topical interest groups. In the Himalaya, where dynamic changes are pronounced on all fronts, the importance of broad regional thinking, interdisciplinary approaches, and intergenerational mentorship emerged as crucial areas for future development.
The workshop was followed by a well-attended public event organized by Social Science Baha on August 13 at which the Yale Himalaya Initiative was introduced. Members of the YHI Steering Committee summarized the workshop findings and reflected on the importance of thinking transregionally and cross-disciplinarily, entering into lively conversation with members of the audience—both international and Nepali—that had assembled for the event.
Click here to read this report on the Yale South Asian Studies Council website.