ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Relationship between People and Parks

Living between Juniper and Palm by Ben Campbell (New Delhi: Oxford University Press), 2013; pp 392, Rs 995 (Hardcover).

The pervasive and powerful impact of nature conservation policies and practices across the globe has raised a number of questions for the fields of environmental history and anthropology: What do ideas about nature tell us about forms of belonging and disenfranchisement in particular contexts? How do narratives of nationhood and community draw on nature? How might local knowledge and cultural memory provide alternate pathways to those advocated by scientific conservationist discourses? Is it possible to speak of indigenous knowledge and scientific knowledge without essentialising both science and the local communities in question?

Ben Campbell’s Living between Juniper and Palm is influenced by more than two decades of intense discussion of these questions. In this fine-grained and theoretically sophisticated study, Campbell traces the impact of the creation of the Langtang National Park in central Nepal on the Tamang-speaking communities who inhabit the areas around the park, engaging in agriculture, livestock keeping, and transhumance. The idea of the “environment” as a discrete, definable and distanced object that is popularised by the state and conservationist groups does not have much resonance with the Tamang groups among whom Campbell conducted several years of ethnographic fieldwork.

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