Himalayan Borderlands Project Events

October 2019

“Place-responsive learning and the ethics of travelling well,” a presentation by Simon Beames.

In this talk, Simon presents a language for considering the degree to which place-based education actually responds to place, proposing three levels of place-based education practice, and enabling us to have more meaningful conversations about place-based outdoor teaching. He then suggests ethical aims for those from the global north who are travelling away from their home regions and highlights common pitfalls for overseas expeditions.

Simon Beames has taught outdoors in North America, Asia, and Europe for 25 years. He is former co-editor of the Journal of Experiential Education and former Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. He has published five books: Understanding educational expeditions (editor), Learning outside the classroom (co-author), Outdoor Adventure and Social Theory (co-editor), Adventurous Learning (co-author), and Adventure and Society.

April 2019

Nepali Language Workshop at University of Toronto with Laxmi Nath Shrestha from Kathmandu. Laxmi Nath Shrestha is a widely acclaimed Nepali language teacher who has served as a teacher of several generations of Nepal Studies scholars. Over the last 15 years he has been conducting courses at universities in Heidelberg, Lisbon, Marburg, and Vienna.

April 8, 2019

Presentation on Code at the Edge project by Dawn Walker, at the DCI Research Studio on “Values, Emotions, Choices: The psychology of systems design.”

February 2019

An intensive two-week workshop on coding and sustainability at the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalay School for Girls in Labang, West Sikkim.

December 4-7, 2018

Workshop series with Dr. Ruth Gamble (Latrobe University). Dr Gamble has research expertise in the history, cultures, religions, literature, and languages of Tibet and the Himalaya. She is interested in the rapidly changing environment in this region and the effects it has on its inhabitants. Dr. Gamble was a researcher at Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich, Germany and taught Tibetan language studies and Asian Religions at the Australian National University. She was the inaugural fellow of Yale University’s Himalaya Initiative and is now a David Myers Research Fellow at La Trobe University. She is researching and writing a history of the Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra) River, and working as an environmental historian and cultural advisor in a multi-disciplinary project focused on rehabilitating the eastern Tibetan Plateau’s peatlands.

December 4: Outdoor Walk – “River Histories, Cultures, and Environments: Walking the Humber River.” U of T faculty, students, community members, joined Ruth Gamble for a walking tour of the Humber River led by Alan Colley of Toronto Aboriginal Eco Tours.

December 5: Lecture and discussion on “Concreting the World’s Highest River: Environmental, Cultural and Geopolitical Impacts of Developing the Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra) River”

The transboundary Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra) River flows across the Tibetan Plateau at an average altitude of more than 4000 meters, before entering northeast India through the world’s deepest gorge. The river feeds two biodiversity hotspots in the Himalaya and over 200 million people in South Asia. It has played a central role in Tibetan religious, cultural and political history for millennia, and recent clashes between China and India over its waters look set to intensify as both nations seek to develop its basin. China, in particular, is engaged in a profound transformation of the river through multiple large-scale development projects: hydro-electrical dams, a high-speed rail line, a freeway, relocated housing, tourism infrastructure, and large agricultural projects. Many of the resources to build this infrastructure, including sand and water, are taken straight from the river and processed in concrete factories along the river’s edge. Using photographs and videos from a recent field trip, Ruth Gamble will discuss the diverse implications of this profound transformation

December 6:  Lecture “An Invitation from the Guardians of the Earth: the Relationship between Reincarnation, Sacred Geography and Nature on the Tibetan Plateau”

December 7:  Reading workshop on “Landscapes” from Reincarnation in Tibetan Buddhism: the Third Karmapa and the Invention of a Tradition”

February 27, 2018

Kikee D. Bhutia on “Beyul Demojong: Bhutia Kingship and the Dawn of Buddhism and Identity among the Lhopos of Sikkim”

Kikee’s paper aimed to situate the sacred landscape of Sikkim according to belief narratives that revolve around the arrival of Guru Padmasambhava. It is believed that when Guru Padmasambhava was on his way to Tibet, he passed the Hidden Land of Demojong and sanctified the land, taming supernatural beings by turning them into the guardian deities of the land and hiding terma in different parts of the land. She discussed how these myths both sanctified the landscape and drew on the sacred geography of the land, and how these became pilgrimage places for the people of Sikkim.

Kikee D Bhutia is a PhD candidate at the Department of Estonian and Comparative Folklore, University of Tartu. Before joining Tartu, she worked as a Research Assistant in Namgyal Institute of Tibetology, Gangtok (Sikkim, India). At Namgyal Institute, she was involved in various projects including transcription, translation and transmission of oral histories and proverbs and also assisting in ethnographic documentary filmmaking.

Kikee’s research focuses on belief narratives regarding yul lha gzhi bdag (guardian deities), in Sikkim, and particularly seeks to draw out the relational principles that connect these deities with villagers in their everyday life. Her research is an exploration of the beliefs, values, stories and rituals she grew up with, and so she sees her research as both an academic endeavour and a quest for discovering and understanding ‘the self’.

February 6, 2018

Aadil Brar on “Heritage Without People: UNESCO World Heritage and the Bureaucracy of Development”

As India’s first “mixed” World Heritage site, the Khangchendzonga National Park, was recognized by UNESCO for both its natural and cultural significance. The listing — meant to be a recognition of “deep cultural meanings and sacred significance” — was celebrated by the government, local officials, and the tourism industry. But where are the people who called the KNP their home? This seven-month investigative research revealed a complicated story of forest dwellers being displaced, bureaucratic control, and tourism driven heritage management. This talk will delve on the impact of UNESCO World Heritage program in Sikkim, and examine the role of Forest, Environment and Wildlife Management Department in forest and cultural heritage management. Brar will also discuss the Forest Rights Act of 2006 in context of Sikkim and India.

Aadil Brar is an international freelance journalist and a National Geographic Young Explorer. His articles have appeared in the Diplomat Magazine, The Northeast Today, the Asian Pacific Memo among other publications. Aadil holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of British Columbia, and is based in Toronto, Canada.

May 2018

A one-week web skills workshop at the Khangchendzonga Conservation Committee in Yuksam, Sikkim, and an afternoon web skills workshop at the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalay School for Girls in Labang, West Sikkim.

April 2018

We hosted a three-week intensive workshop in introductory Spoken Nepali language at the University of Toronto, attended by members of our research team and other local graduate and undergraduate students, and led by a member of the local Nepali community, Dr Binod Baral.

December 15-18, 2017

Workshop on “Hidden Lands in Himalayan Myth and History: Transformations of Beyul (sBas yul) through Time,” convened by Frances Garrett, Geoffrey Samuel, Elizabeth McDougal and Ian Baker. This three-day workshop was sponsored by the Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation Centre for Buddhist Studies at the University of Toronto, and the Body, Health and Religion Research Group of Cardiff University. The proceedings of this workshop are now under review for publication.