2017 Global Seminar: At Home (And Abroad) in the Indian Himalayas

What does it mean to be “at home” in Garhwal in the Indian Himalayas? How do the people of Garhwal identify and experience “locality,” “territory” and “community?”

Uttarakhand, India: June 10 - July 22

Application Deadline: February 13, 2017

About the Seminar

The seminar will introduce students to the ecologically and culturally diverse region of the Himalayas known as Garhwal, in the state of Uttarakhand, India. It will explore the many ways that the different ethnic groups living there behave, believe, organize themselves and survive in their spectacular environments. In the past, many Himalayan people practiced transhumance and nomadism, but today, because of increasing out-migration, fewer and fewer live out their lives where they are born. Thus, the central questions of the seminar will be, how do the people of Garhwal identify and experience “locality,” “territory,” and “community?” What does it mean to be “at home” in this part of the Indian Himalayas? In answering these questions, we will problematize commonsensical definitions of “community” as flowing out of face-to-face encounters, and “locality” as a place with clear boundaries. We will see that “localities,” “territories,” and “communities” in the Himalayas (no matter how separated and isolated they may be) are inevitably constituted by a wider set of spatial and social relations that are defined by cosmological, ritual, socio-political, and economic processes that impinge on and organize these broader relations. It is these that we will study in this course.

The seminar will be based at the Hanifl Centre in Landour (Mussoorie) — an old British hill station located at 7,000 feet — which specializes in the environmental study of the Western Himalayas. The center’s research on animals, Ayurvedic medicinal herbs and natural resource management will enrich our understanding of place and homemaking in the mountains of Garhwal.

The seminar will feature daily classes in Hindi as well as guest lectures on history, folklore, music and literature by scholars from local universities and by writers, scholars and artists based in Mussoorie. Excursions will include: (1) a one-week trek to Har-ki Doon, a high mountain valley in westernmost Uttarakhand, which will include visits to mountain villages and remote high altitude temples; (2) various trips to cultural and educational institutions around Mussorie, including a one-day visit to a Tibetan community in exile where we will learn about the educational work of the Tibetan Homes Foundation, and trips to the vibrant and bustling state capital, Dehradun, located about 25 miles below Mussoorie; and (3) a four-day home stay in the mountain town of Ranikhet, in Kumaon, just to the east of Garhwal, a town with spectacular mountain views and a distinctive culture.

Faculty Director

Isabelle Clark-Decès is a professor of anthropology and the director of the Program in South Asian Studies. Her research interests are in South Asia, with a focus on the Tamils of South India and Sri Lanka. 

Seminar Manager

Jayne Bialkowski can be reached at or by calling 609-258-2635.

Distribution Requirements

The seminar fulfills the Social Analysis (SA) requirement, the requirements for the certificate in South Asian Studies and the departmental requirements for Anthropology (ANT).

Costs and Financial Aid

Program Fee: $2,800 (includes all housing, required course excursions, and related academic expenses). Additional instructional costs (books and materials, required immunizations) will vary, but students should budget up to $600 for these expenses. Roundtrip airfare and airport transportation is estimated at $1,800, meals at $500 and personal expenses at $500.

PIIRS provides generous funding to students admitted to the Global Seminars who receive term financial aid. Possibilities for additional financial support may be available through the Student Activities Funding Engine (SAFE). Princeton Subsidized Student Loans, available from the Office of Financial Aid, are also highly recommended over charging costs to a credit card. Please consult Financing Options for Students and Parents 2016–17, specifically pages 1–2 and Table 3, and contact the Office of Financial Aid for more information

To ensure a place in the seminar, a $500 nonrefundable deposit will be charged to participants’ accounts on April 1; the balance of the course fee will be charged to accounts on May 15.

NB: Students who accept a place in a Global Seminar and then, before the seminar begins, withdraw or cannot participate because they are no longer enrolled at Princeton will lose the nonrefundable deposit and any unrecoverable costs. There are no refunds after the start of the program.

The Holly and Henry Wendt, Class of 1955, Global Seminar. The seminar is also generously supported by the Beth M. Siskind Family Fund. PIIRS Global Seminars are made possible in part by the generous contributions of alumni and friends and ongoing efforts of the Office of Development.