Professor William Sax, Department of Anthropology, Heidelberg University
Thursday, April 6, 2017
Haury Room 216
"From Subject to Citizen in the Western Himalayas"
Abstract: The area known as Rawain, at the headwaters of the Tons River in the Western Himalayas, has long been regarded as particularly wild and unruly. Residents consistently resisted integration with neighbouring kingdoms, and they continued this resistance under the colonial and even the postcolonial state. Their traditional polity was one of “divine kingship” where civil and criminal law, along with (mostly hostile) relations with neighbouring divine kingdoms, were administered by the local god in his temple, speaking through his oracle. Over the past decades, as the region has finally become integrated into the Indian mainstream, many of the powers associated with these ruling gods have been shifted to the secular courts and the democratic electoral system. Nevertheless, residents still feel great loyalty to their “divine kings,” and consult them for all manner of personal, collective, and environmental problems. In this paper, I examine the way in which this region has adapted to modern political forms, while still preserving many of the traditional ones. My central thesis is that "divine kings" articulated the collective agency of their polities, and continue to do so.