The article deals with the political ecology of road construction in Ladakh, North India. It considers the way humans exploit and transform the environment through social and political arrangements and for purposes that are socially and culturally mediated (Nyerges 1997).1 Roads – as “socionature,” part social, part natural (Swyngedouw 2003 following Lefebvre)2 – are an integral part of this environment; and roads in turn affect people, influence the way they move, and what they do. The article is based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Ladakh between 2006 and 2009 along the future Zanskar Highway, a trans-Himalayan road that has been under construction for more than three decades. Based on the experience of the people of Lingshed – a village situated three day walk away from the road – I look at the symbolic dimensions of roads, explore the formidable mobility of Lingshedpas, and examine the relationship between roads, isolation and mobility. How are mobility and isolation experienced in the absence of road? What are the effects of roads in a remote Himalayan village? I argue that both isolation and mobility are experienced in Lingshed, but a notion of isolation is intentionally and unintentionally manufactured in order to build the case for road construction. I attempt to dissociate manufactured aspects of isolation from experienced ones, and show how they differ.
1: Nyerges, Endrew (1997), The ecology of practice: studies of food crop production in Sub-Saharan West Africa (Amsterdam: Gordon and Breach). 2: Swyngedouw, Erik (2003), 'Modernity and the Production of the Spanish Waterscape, 1890-1930', in Karl S. Zimmerer and Thomas J. Bassett (eds.), Political Ecology: An Integrative Approach to Geography and Environment-Development Studies (New York: The Guilford Press).
Demenge, Jonathan P.
"The Road to Lingshed: Manufactured Isolation and Experienced Mobility in Ladakh,"
HIMALAYA, the Journal of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies: Vol. 32
, Article 14.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.macalester.edu/himalaya/vol32/iss1/14