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Conversing with Nature: Ecological Symbolism in Central Nepal

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image of Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology

Anthropologists have in recent years been grappling with the popular notion that indigenous peoples have a relationhip of oneness with nature. These debates have been strongly influenced by theories of the psychology of perception and cognition, but this paper argues that dimensions of power need to be recognized in expressions of indigenous relationships with nature. Using narratives from the Tamang people of Nepal, it is argued that notions of natural type and species relationality cannot be divorced from the ideology of natural difference between castes and the effects of naturalized inequalities of power. Tamang myth attributes trees and animals with potential for trans-species reproduction in a logic that mirrors the conceptual fragility of boundaries between human types. Indigenous conversations with nature may appear to some as fantastical, but listening to them leads to an appreciation of how connectedness with natural process operates as a discourse of power.

Affiliations: 1: ICCCR Department of Social Anthropology University of Manchester Roscoe Building (5th Floor), Brunswick Street Manchester M13 9PL, UK

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