Amrit Tamang Receives 2024 Himalayan Studies Fellowship

Congratulations to Anthropology Ph.D. student Amrit Tamang who has received a Fellowship in Himalayan Studies through the Association of Nepal and Himalayan Studies (ANHS) and funded by the Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC).

This year’s competition yielded altogether 46 proposals submitted by applicants from around the world.

Project: Re-centering Indigenous Tamang Labor in Nepal’s Mountaineering/Trekking Industry

Abstract: My research delves into the experiences of Tamang porters in Nepal’s mountaineering and trekking industry, focusing on how labor, the state, and Indigeneity intersect in their lives. Using my family’s involvement in the industry as an entry point, I aim to understand the complex hierarchies and power dynamics faced by Indigenous laborers. Employing a multi-sited ethnographic approach, I will holistically explore the experiences of porters both within their home communities and as internal migrant laborers in the industry, examining how labor shapes their cultural, social, and psychological experiences. This study raises two key issues: the Western-centric narratives of mountaineering that focus on Sherpas but overlook mid-hill Indigenous groups like the Tamang , and the industry’s historical reliance on marginalized communities’ labor to benefit privileged communities. I argue that the historical exploitation and marginalization of the Tamang intersect with current labor dynamics, perpetuating inferior conditions for Indigenous groups within the globalized industry. In addition to ethnographic research, my visual ethnography aims to portray Tamang porters not as the lowest echelon of the labor hierarchy, but as central to the industry’s very survival. This research contributes to Himalayan decolonial scholarship by centering Tamang porters’ experiences and offering insights into Indigeneity and labor in Nepal. It addresses a gap in the literature on internal labor migration in the country’s trekking industry, emphasizing the need for a more inclusive approach to studying Indigenous experiences in relation to labor and mobility globally.