privacy policy

Ancestral Territories, Political Borders, and the Limbu’s Sense of Community in Sikkim


· Mélanie Vandenhelsken CIRDIS, University of Vienna (Vienna, Austria)


07/28 | 09:00-09:20 UTC+2/CEST


For Limbu in Sikkim, the differentiation with ‘Limbu from Nepal’ is a stake for accessing political representation. Simultaneously, ‘recognition’, in various senses of the term, is interpreted as entailing cultural uniformity among all Limbu, or at least, all Limbu living in Sikkim. These political injunctions permeate discourses about cultural practices, and influence meanings and content of ritual performances in particular. This paper will discuss social and political bordering in death rituals, and their discursive context, performed by Limbu in Sikkim. It is based on an approach of rituals as not only representing social processes, but also enabling renegotiation of power relations (Ortner, High Religion, 1989; Rao, Ritual in Society, 2006). Rituals are here also approached as one of the planes of experience where representations and meanings of the border are constructed. I will firstly examine the territories revealed through various performances of Limbu death rituals, both visible landscapes and the ancestral territory, accessible only to shamans and dead people’s ‘souls’. I will secondly discuss bordering of the territory and of the community in the discursive context of the ritual. This aims at highlighting forms of territorial classifications and the role of ritual performances and interpretations, also informed by the socio-political context, in shaping them.