Current Institutional Affiliation
Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, Yale University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2018
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, Yale University
Drivery: Transport, Mobility and Possibility in the Indian Himalayas

What would it be like to discuss movement and mobility not only in terms of dislocation and dispossession but also in terms of attachment and belonging? Is it possible that the mobility of people, goods and ideas can renew possibilities for the enactment of commitment towards people, places, and identities? What are the modes of such enactment and how do we study them? My proposed research on drivery aims to center these questions in order to understand the landscape of 'new mobilities' and possibilities in the Indian Himalayas. Drivery, as it is popularly known, can be understood as the practice of shared automobility among drivers, passengers and the transport bureaucracy. As the traffic of shared taxis and the expanding networks of roads involves even the 'remote' reaches of the Indian Himalayas, my project is interested in examining the infrastructures, inter-subjectivities and identities that drivery enables and activates. Whether it is the largest Hindu pilgrimage to the char dhama (four shrines) in the north-west, the (now disallowed) journeys of Tibetan traders and merchants for grain and salt in the east, the flow of laboring bodies along the 'friendly' border with Nepal or the presence of security personnel due to prospects of skirmishes with the not so friendly China, this region is not new to mobilities. However, what is 'new' about the 'new mobilities' that my project proposes to study is the social and spatial configuration – the network of routes, avenues of accessibility, the politics of speed and the space for intimacy and friction that it provides. Through an inter-disciplinary study of the social history of automobility via oral and archival sources, the cultural geography of landscape transformation via landscape paintings and engineering blueprints and the ethnography of drivery in moving taxis and on roads, my project aims to understand and explain what mobility can tell us about the seeming immobility of belonging, attachment and commitment.