Exploring Gaddi Pluralities

An Introduction and Overview

  • Stephen Christopher
  • Peter Phillimore
Keywords: Ethnicity, Scheduled Tribe, social change, pastoralism, spirituality


This Introduction provides the first exhaustive overview of the range of ethnographic and historical research on Gaddis. Beginning with late 19th-century colonial efforts to pin down, in a manner characteristic of the period, the elusive structure of Gaddi society, we trace the trajectory of research in numerous Gaddi communities in western Himachal Pradesh over the last seventy years. We highlight several areas of substantial research at the intersection of politics, religion, gender and economy, and how these shape contemporary disputes about cultural identity. These disputes can be best summarized as the question: ‘Who counts as a Gaddi?’ Of course, the historic identity of Gaddis as the preeminent sheep and goat herding pastoralists of the region looms large, even as transhumant pastoralism itself declines, for herein lies the ideological roots of contemporary social divisions and exclusion. We also highlight how the diversity of ethnographic vantage points brought together in this Special Issue help to dispel lingering assumptions of Gaddi cultural and political uniformity across the region, as each in different ways illuminates the connections between Gaddis, their neighbors, and the state.

How to Cite
Christopher, S., & Phillimore, P. (2023). Exploring Gaddi Pluralities. HIMALAYA - The Journal of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies, 42(2), 3-20. https://doi.org/10.2218/himalaya.2023.7974