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Geographical Diversions

Tibetan Trade, Global Transactions

Tina Harris

Publication Year: 2013

Working at the intersections of cultural anthropology, human geography, and material culture, Tina Harris explores the social and economic transformations taking place along one trade route that winds its way across China, Nepal, Tibet, and India.

How might we make connections between seemingly mundane daily life and more abstract levels of global change? Geographical Diversions focuses on two generations of traders who exchange goods such as sheep wool, pang gdan aprons, and more recently, household appliances. Exploring how traders "make places," Harris examines the creation of geographies of trade that work against state ideas of what trade routes should look like. She argues that the tensions between the apparent fixity of national boundaries and the mobility of local individuals around such restrictions are precisely how routes and histories of trade are produced.

The economic rise of China and India has received attention from the international media, but the effects of major new infrastructure at the intersecting borderlands of these nationstates—in places like Tibet, northern India, and Nepal—have rarely been covered. Geographical Diversions challenges globalization theories based on bounded conceptions of nation-states and offers a smaller-scale perspective that differs from many theories of macroscale economic change.

Published by: University of Georgia Press

Series: Geographies of Justice and Social Transformation


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pp. C-C

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

List of Figures

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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xiv

A Note on Transliteration

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pp. xv-xvi

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INTRODUCTION: Tibet, Trade, and Territory

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pp. 1-26

The temporal rhythms of cities are marked not just by seasonal changes but also by variations in trading practices. In the transition from autumn to winter in Lhasa, the tourists who buy trinkets from the marketplace vendors that are common in the height of summer begin to peter out until they are almost completely absent. The luxury hotels grow quieter. There is a momentary, almost ...

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CHAPTER ONE: Middlemen, Marketplaces, and Maps

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pp. 27-51

The Tibet Mirror (yul phyogs so so’i gsar ’gyur me long), a twentieth- century Tibetan- language newspaper published in Kalimpong, had commodity listings in nearly every issue of the newspaper from its start in 1925 until its demise in 1963. These listings gave its readers an idea of what the “market prices in Gold and Silver from Calcutta” looked like, as well as the prices of common items brought...

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CHAPTER TWO: From Loom to Machine

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pp. 52-83

In a book based on the memoirs of Newar merchants who conducted business between Lhasa, Kathmandu, and Kalimpong in the first half of the twentieth century, Kamal Tuladhar writes of his family’s shop in Lhasa: “English woolens, Japanese velvet, Chinese silk, Nepalese cottons, and Indian brocade . . . filled the shelves. Coral was imported from Italy, turquoise from Iran, and brick tea from ...

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CHAPTER THREE: Silk Roads and Wool Routes

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pp. 84-99

It is a clear weekend afternoon in Kalimpong, a town of about 43,000 mostly Nepali-speaking inhabitants in the mountainous, northernmost tip of West Bengal.1 The rhododendrons are glaringly bright against the green foliage and the Himalayas hover on the horizon; it is especially pleasant aft er months of heavy monsoon rain, moldy clothes, and the sporadic landslides that prevented...

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CHAPTER FOUR: Reopenings and Restrictions

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pp. 100-121

I begin this chapter with two scenes that take place at border crossings.
1. Nathu-la. For decades, the hills of North Bengal and Sikkim have provided a cool escape for many middle- class tourists (and formerly, British colonists) during the stifl ing Indian summers. Although currently restricted to Indian citizens with special one- day permits, one common scenic destination is the ...

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CHAPTER FIVE: New Economic Geographies

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pp. 122-140

Written more than a half century ago, Owen Lattimore’s statement seems remarkably prescient. During my fi eldwork in 2006, in addition to the reopening of Nathu-la, other major eff orts to build up infrastructure and industrial centers in the “deep hinterlands” of inner Asia were well under way. As part of the long- term economic vision of the PRC to “Develop the West,” plans were being...

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CHAPTER SIX: Mobility and Fixity

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pp. 141-152

I heard the phrase “Delhi doesn’t understand” yet again from a Sikkimese extrader- turned- teacher toward the end of my stay in India. Aft er a long conversation that focused mostly on teaching and education in the region, we moved on to discuss a story he had heard in 2002 about a refugee mother and two ...

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A Further Note on Research Methods

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pp. 153-156

My research methodology warrants a bit more explanation than has been given in the body of this book. Here, I briefly touch on some issues regarding surveillance, research permits and visas, interview languages, and the specter of illicitness and smuggling. Anthropologists tend to spend a significant amount of time living with local families in order to gain cultural insights that might...


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pp. 157-162


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pp. 163-176


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pp. 177-192

E-ISBN-13: 9780820345734
E-ISBN-10: 0820345733
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820338668
Print-ISBN-10: 0820338664

Page Count: 184
Illustrations: 17 b&w photos, 1 table, 5 maps
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Geographies of Justice and Social Transformation
Series Editor Byline: Nik Heynen, Deborah Cowen, and Melissa W. Wright, Series Editors See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 835556166
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Geographical Diversions

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Ethnology -- China -- Tibet Autonomous Region.
  • Commerce -- China -- Tibet Autonomous Region.
  • Sheepherding -- Economic aspects -- China -- Tibet Autonomous Region.
  • Human geography -- China -- Tibet Autonomous Region.
  • Tibet Autonomous Region (China) -- Boundaries.
  • Tibet Autonomous Region (China) -- Economic conditions.
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