The perils of being a borderland people: on the Lhotshampas of Bhutan


Evans, Rosalind. 2010. "The perils of being a borderland people: on the Lhotshampas of Bhutan." Contemporary South Asia 18 (1): 25-42.

Author: Rosalind Evans


This article responds to Baud and van Schendel’s call for research into the history of borderland people in order to redress ‘the imbalance of ‘‘state-centred’’studies’. It does so by providing a study of borderlands from the periphery, analysing the experiences of the Lhotshampas – a borderland people of Bhutan – who migrated there from Nepal and India a few generations ago. In response to the Bhutanese Government’s efforts to promote a homogeneous national identity during the 1980s, Lhotshampa political leaders campaigned for increased political and cultural rights. The suppression of their early protests by the Bhutanese authorities ushered in a period of instability and conflict in the south, eventually resulting in the exodus of tens of thousands of refugees who have been living in camps in Nepal since the early 1990s. Through the use of secondary literature and refugees’ memories, the article investigates the perspectives of ordinary villagers caught between the Bhutanese state and local elite political activists. It highlights the important role that oral histories can play in furthering our understanding of social and political dynamics in borderland areas.

Keywords: Bhutan, Nepal, refugees, borderlands, borders

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Forced Migration, Refugees, Refugee/IDP Camps, Rights, Human Rights Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: Bhutan, Nepal

Year: 2010

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