Journal of Mountain Science

, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 209–217 | Cite as

Living in a high mountain border region: the case of the ‘Bhotiyas’ of the Indo-Chinese border region

  • Christoph Bergmann
  • Martin Gerwin
  • Marcus NüsserEmail author
  • William S. Sax


This article introduces one of South Asia’s most important border regions into academic discourse, namely, the Central Himalayan mountain rim separating India and the Tibetan Autonomous Region (People’s Republic of China). What makes this border region so interesting is a tangled interplay of changing environmental, cultural, and political forms to which the local populations constantly have to adapt in order to make a living there. We focused on the so-called ‘Bhotiyas’ of Uttarakhand, former trans-Himalayan traders whose ethnicity and livelihood was traditionally associated with the Indo-Chinese border that was sealed as a result of the India-China war in 1962. Drawing on the work of borderland scholarship, we identified the key processes and developments that changed the perspective of this area. Competing political aspirations as well as the ‘Bhotiyas’ countervailing strategies were considered equally important for understanding local livelihoods and identities within the dynamics of a ‘high mountain border region’. Through an exemplary analysis of historical differences of power in one ‘Bhotiya’ valley, we further explored the ways in which shifting socio-spatial constellations are creatively re-interpreted by the borderlanders.


Uttarakhand trans-Himalayan trade Bhotiyas borderland study 


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Copyright information

© Science Press, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, CAS and Springer-Verlag GmbH 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christoph Bergmann
    • 1
  • Martin Gerwin
    • 2
  • Marcus Nüsser
    • 2
    Email author
  • William S. Sax
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Social Anthropology, South Asia InstituteUniversity of HeidelbergHeidelbergGermany
  2. 2.Department of Geography, South Asia InstituteUniversity of HeidelbergHeidelbergGermany

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