Accepted Paper:

From Helambu Sherpa to Nepalese Hyolmo  

Author:

Davide Torri (University of Heidelberg)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will address the topic of the creation of a space, both physical and conceptual, functional to the identity building processes, where to enact performative practices to provide support and substantiality to the Hyolmo community ideas about its own identity.

Paper long abstract:

The Hyolmo, a janajati adivasi group, are facing fast and dramatic changes in their lives. Their "traditional" homeland, Helambu, where until twenty years ago they were living as farmers and herders, has been mostly deserted in the last decades, with a consistent move toward urbanization, mainly centered around the Boudhanath area of the Kathmandu valley.

Largely ignored by domestic and international social, ethnographic or anthropological research, the Hyolmo started to assert, discover, negotiate and "invent" their own identity during the ethnic revival ┬┤movement which followed the first jana andolan.

This identity assertion process, driven mainly by the community elite residing in the Kathmandu Valley, was centered around a communal project: the establishment of a spatial focus, in the form of a Hyolmo rNyngmapa Gompa, served the purpose to provide a public space for self-representation in a system of frameworks ranging from the purely local dimension (i.e. the Hyolmo as a Buddhist janajati adivasi group), to the national (i.e. the Hyolmo as a national minority) and even the wider transnational one (the Hyolmo diaspora working abroad in the E.U. or in the Far East).

This paper will address the topic of the creation of a space, both physical and conceptual, functional to the identity building processes, where to enact performative practices (music, dances, cultural programmes, community gatherings, religious rituals), to provide support and substantiality to the community ideas of its own identity (or identities).

Panel P28
Public displays of ethnic identity in Nepal