Between the Emergency and Mandal

Fieldwork Blind-Spots and other Reflections

  • Peter Phillimore
Keywords: Gaddi, Kangra, Pastoralism, ethnographic reassessment, inter-generational influence


This paper reflects back on the preoccupations and omissions of my own doctoral fieldwork over forty years ago, spurred by subsequent ethnographies of Gaddis down to the present. My fieldwork in the Gaddi village of Karnathu took place in the shadow of The Emergency (1975-77). It was a shadow that I was not sufficiently attentive to at the time, especially considering that the very choice of Karnathu as a village fieldwork site owed much to the atmosphere of the Emergency. This fieldwork took place well before the Mandal Commission’s recommendations were implemented after 1990. The repercussions of these two signal landmarks in modern Indian history are hard to overstate, and in the second half of this article I explore some of the contrasts between my own pre-Mandal fieldwork and the concerns, themes and insights of later ethnographers working in the post-Mandal aftermath —an aftermath which has yielded a rich seam of possibilities as well as accentuated divisions in the upheavals of a new Gaddi identity politics.

How to Cite
Phillimore, P. (2023). Between the Emergency and Mandal. HIMALAYA - The Journal of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies, 42(2), 119-132.