Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Geographical Diversions

Geographical Diversions: Tibetan Trade, Global Transactions

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 184
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Geographical Diversions
    Book Description:

    Working at the intersections of cultural anthropology, human geography, and material culture, Tina Harris explores the social and economic transformations taking place along one trade route that winds its way across China, Nepal, Tibet, and India. How might we make connections between seemingly mundane daily life and more abstract levels of global change? Geographical Diversions focuses on two generations of traders who exchange goods such as sheep wool, pang gdan aprons, and more recently, household appliances. Exploring how traders "make places," Harris examines the creation of geographies of trade that work against state ideas of what trade routes should look like. She argues that the tensions between the apparent fixity of national boundaries and the mobility of local individuals around such restrictions are precisely how routes and histories of trade are produced. The economic rise of China and India has received attention from the international media, but the effects of major new infrastructure at the intersecting borderlands of these nationstates-in places like Tibet, northern India, and Nepal-have rarely been covered. Geographical Diversions challenges globalization theories based on bounded conceptions of nation-states and offers a smaller-scale perspective that differs from many theories of macroscale economic change.

    eISBN: 978-0-8203-4573-4
    Subjects: Population Studies, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. INTRODUCTION Tibet, Trade, and Territory
    (pp. 1-26)

    The temporal rhythms of cities are marked not just by seasonal changes but also by variations in trading practices. In the transition from autumn to winter in Lhasa, the tourists who buy trinkets from the marketplace vendors that are common in the height of summer begin to peter out until they are almost completely absent. The luxury hotels grow quieter. There is a momentary, almost palpable pause, and soon nomads from rural Amdo and Kham—other Tibetan-speaking regions on the plateau—begin to appear in the streets for trade and for pilgrimage, purchasing household items like blenders and blankets and...

  7. CHAPTER ONE Middlemen, Marketplaces, and Maps
    (pp. 27-51)

    The Tibet Mirror (yul phyogs so so’i gsar ’gyur me long), a twentieth-century Tibetan-language newspaper published in Kalimpong, had commodity listings in nearly every issue of the newspaper from its start in 1925 until its demise in 1963. These listings gave its readers an idea of what the “market prices in Gold and Silver from Calcutta” looked like, as well as the prices of common items brought from Tibet to Kalimpong. The newspaper clipping below is from the November 24, 1956, edition of the Mirror and lists prices for various commodities traded between Lhasa and Kalimpong (figure 5). The items...

  8. CHAPTER TWO From Loom to Machine
    (pp. 52-83)

    In a book based on the memoirs of Newar merchants who conducted business between Lhasa, Kathmandu, and Kalimpong in the first half of the twentieth century, Kamal Tuladhar writes of his family’s shop in Lhasa: “English woolens, Japanese velvet, Chinese silk, Nepalese cottons, and Indian brocade … filled the shelves. Coral was imported from Italy, turquoise from Iran, and brick tea from Shanghai … Mongolians and Tajiks brought silk to Lhasa, Bhutanese brought rice to barter for silk, Golok nomads brought wool, Amdowas brought Chinese silver coins and gold dust, and Khampas brought brick tea to trade for textiles” (Tuladhar...

  9. CHAPTER THREE Silk Roads and Wool Routes
    (pp. 84-99)

    It is a clear weekend afternoon in Kalimpong, a town of about 43,000 mostly Nepali-speaking inhabitants in the mountainous, northernmost tip of West Bengal.¹ The rhododendrons are glaringly bright against the green foliage and the Himalayas hover on the horizon; it is especially pleasant after months of heavy monsoon rain, moldy clothes, and the sporadic landslides that prevented the delivery of provisions to the local shops for weeks on end. I am on my way to meet a man named Tsering, someone whom my friend Prakash insists I must speak with if I am doing research about the Lhasa–Kalimpong...

  10. CHAPTER FOUR Reopenings and Restrictions
    (pp. 100-121)

    I begin this chapter with two scenes that take place at border crossings.

    1. Nathu-la. For decades, the hills of North Bengal and Sikkim have provided a cool escape for many middle-class tourists (and formerly, British colonists) during the stifling Indian summers. Although currently restricted to Indian citizens with special one-day permits, one common scenic destination is the India-China border post at Nathu-la. Travel agencies in Kalimpong, Darjeeling, and Gangtok advertise the Nathu-la tour package as a high-altitude adventure; according to one Indian travel agency, it is a “wonderful place to behold the nature’s splendor and admire the armed forces that...

  11. CHAPTER FIVE New Economic Geographies
    (pp. 122-140)

    Written more than a half century ago, Owen Lattimore’s statement seems remarkably prescient. During my fieldwork in 2006, in addition to the reopening of Nathu-la, other major efforts to build up infrastructure and industrial centers in the “deep hinterlands” of inner Asia were well under way. As part of the long-term economic vision of the prc to “Develop the West,” plans were being made to extend the Qinghai–Tibet railroad to Khasa at the Nepal border, and perhaps even to Yatung at the Indian border, the last major town in Tibet before Nathu-la. There was also talk of extending the...

  12. CHAPTER SIX Mobility and Fixity
    (pp. 141-152)

    I heard the phrase “Delhi doesn’t understand” yet again from a Sikkimese extrader-turned-teacher toward the end of my stay in India. After a long conversation that focused mostly on teaching and education in the region, we moved on to discuss a story he had heard in 2002 about a refugee mother and two children from Tibet who tried to escape to India through the Chorten Nyima mountain pass on the northwest border of Sikkim and Tibet. Apparently, a call went out to the office in Delhi that deals with refugee issues to find out what to do. The authorities in...

    (pp. 153-156)
  14. NOTES
    (pp. 157-162)
    (pp. 163-176)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 177-190)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 191-192)