Following Mountain Trails, Real or Imagined: Language, Walking, and Landscape in Byans, Far Western Nepal
(The University of Tokyo)
Paper short abstract:
In this presentation I demonstrate the seemingly static but ever-changing relationship people of Byans have had with landscapes, by combining linguistic anthropological analysis on spatial nominals and place names with ethnographic materials on real and imagined walking.
Paper long abstract:
This presentation is an attempt to grasp the relationship people of Byans have had with landscapes. Byans lies in the uppermost valley of the Mahakali River that constitutes the western border of Nepal with India. As trans-Himalayan traders, the many inhabitants of Nepali Byans, who call themselves Rang, have moved between Tibet and southern hills of the Himalayas along mountain trails. I first present the system of Rang spatial nominals, in which a "relative" or "deictic" coordinate system merged with an "absolute" one, and argue that the system reflects, or is afforded by, the actual geographical features of Byans and adjacent regions. Then I show that Rangs often discuss a landscape as is composed of many named places, mutually connected by trails. Many of these named places are inextricably connected with, and materially transformed by their "traditional" subsistence activities (agriculture, animal husbandry, and trade). On the other hand a named place often reminds them of mythical and historical incidents that once occurred there, and/or some "supernatural" being(s) living there who should be ritually treated. The latter aspect is most clearly appeared in "se yamo", the long oral tradition recited in their traditional funeral rituals, in which the soul of the deceased is sent by words, within the actual landscapes and beyond along trails, to the ancestors' land. Lastly I argue that this apparently static but ever-changing relationship between Rangs and the landscapes can hardly be sustained without the experience of living and walking in the landscapes.
Listening landscapes, speaking memories