Rituals of Ethnicity is a transnational study of the relationships between mobility, ethnicity and ritual action. Through an ethnography of the Thangmi, a marginalized community who migrate between Himalaya border zones of Nepal, India and the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China, Shneiderman offers a new explanation for the persistence of enduring ethnic identities today despite the increasing realities of mobile, hybrid lives. The first comprehensive ethnography of the Thangmi, the book is framed by the Maoist-state civil conflict in Nepal and the movement for a separate state of Gorkhaland in India. Shneiderman builds upon the specificity of Thangmi experience to tell a larger story about the complexities of ethnic consciousness: the challenges of belonging and citizen under condition of mobility, the desire to both lay claim to and remain apart from the civil society of multiple states, and the paradox of self-identification as a group with culture traditions in need of both preservation and development.
An entirely unique and stunning ethnography. Shneiderman finds herself assisting the Thangmi’s drive to manifest their distinctiveness and seek recognition. She manages a high-wire performance herself: one full of compassion acute theoretical insight, exemplary balance, and respect for the sacredness of the quest-doing as much credit to ethnography as a craft as to the Thangmi as a people. Few have been as fortunate in their ethnographer as the Thangmi. – James C. Scott, Yale University