'Producing' Thangmi Ritual Texts: Practice, Performance and Collaborative Documentation
In the course of my research on Thangmi ethnic identity, many members of this community spread across Himalayan areas of Nepal and India expressed a desire to see the oral recitations of their guru (shamans) made available in a written form. Thangmi individuals held divergent rationales for this project—some focused on its spiritual benefits, while others emphasized the political or practical implications. Others, including some of the shamans, did not wish to see textualisation occur at all.
This year, in collaboration with Bir Bahadur Thami, I began the process of ‘producing’ textual transcriptions and translations of three primary Thangmi ritual texts. Here I reflect upon the challenges of making our work both rigorous at a scholarly level, and meaningful within a contentious community environment shaped by ethnic, class, religious and personal politics spread across two countries. In particular, I describe two recent community workshops held in Kathmandu and Darjeeling at which such issues were discussed.