Amulets as Infrastructure

Enabling the Ordinary for Children in Mugum, Western Nepal


  • Heidi E. Fjeld University of Oslo Norway
  • Inger K. Vasstveit



amulets, children, anthropology, infrastructure, protection


This article explores the use of amulets on children’s bodies, drawing on empirical examples from Mugum in western Nepal and theoretical insights from anthropology of personhood, kinship and infrastructure. Taking four-year old Tashi and his family in Mugum as a starting point, we show how the status of toddlers and small children is “extraordinary”; they are physically fragile, emotionally uncontrolled, and weakly connected, and in need of special protection. In the complex transition to ordinary personhood, amulets serve as one of many “technologies of protection” for children (Garrett 2013, 189). We suggest that amulets act as a stable infrastructure that enables a hope for children to live ordinary lives, and argue that the significance of these means of protection intersects closely with notions of marginality.

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Author Biographies

Heidi E. Fjeld, University of Oslo Norway

Heidi E. Fjeld is a Professor of Medical Anthropology at the Institute of Health and Society, University of Oslo. She is currently the Project Lead of ‘From Asia to Africa: Antibiotic Trajectories across the Indian Ocean’ (2020-2025) and member of the research team of 'EATWELL: A comparative material semiotic ethnography of food systems and more-than-human health in Bhutan' (2021-2027). She is the author of The Return of Polyandry: Kinship and Marriage in Cental Tibet (Berghahn, 2022) and Commoners and Nobles: Hereditary Divisions in Tibet (NIAS, 2005).


Inger K. Vasstveit

Inger K. Vasstveit is a former PhD student in anthropology at the University of Oslo.  She is currently working with refugees in Norway. 




How to Cite

Fjeld, H. E., & Vasstveit, I. K. (2023). Amulets as Infrastructure: Enabling the Ordinary for Children in Mugum, Western Nepal. HIMALAYA - The Journal of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies, 43(1), 20–41.

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