‘Kyidug Manyom’: Transnational Migration, Belonging and Social Change in Mustang, Nepal
This paper explores transnational migration in and from Mustang, Nepal, a high-altitude region of the Himalayas, to understand how people who migrate and return reconstruct a sense of belonging to their birthplace. Narrative ethnography forms the core of this paper as we discuss the stories of four individuals from Mustang to explore the complex decision making around migration and the act of returning, permanently and cyclically. We build on theories of ‘transnationalism’ and ‘belonging,’ and emphasize the circular nature of migration, to argue that migratory journeys involve a continued evaluation of the social and economic realities of contemporary life at ‘home’—highlighting intergenerational tensions, ideas around cultural preservation, and a dynamic understanding of belonging in the context of a transnational community. Although financial need continues to be a primary driving force behind migration trends in Mustang, this paper acknowledges other factors that shape migration such as, family pressure and intergenerational tensions, and the infrastructural and technological developments that have made travel and communication easier and more reliable. Despite the widespread depopulation of Nepal’s highlands, we argue that many Mustangis who migrate remain committed to Mustang’s socioeconomic future, and nurture a connection to their ancestral homeland even as their transnational aspirations pull them away.
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