Rituals of Ethnicity: Migration, Mixture, and the Making of Thangmi Identity across Himalayan Borders


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This ethnography examines the relationships between political discourse, ritual practice, and circular migration in producing ethnic identity for the Thangmi, a community dispersed across Himalayan areas of Nepal, India, and China’s Tibetan Autonomous Region. The Thangmi deploy cultural mixture, racial hybridity, and religious syncretism as ethnic markers. Circular migrants transport these values across state borders, along with their experiences of ethnic policy in each country. The Thangmi case—in which identities are forged in a transnational dialectic between discursive statements of cultural absence and ritualized expressions of cultural presence—prompts us to reconceptualize how both ethnicity and ritual work, and to challenge the limitations of academic and political borders.