The Himalayas have long been at the crossroads of the exchange between cultures, yet the social lives of those who inhabit the region are...

The Himalayas have long been at the crossroads of the exchange between cultures, yet the social lives of those who inhabit the region are often framed as marginal to historical narratives. And while scholars have studied religious diversity in the context of modern nation-states, such as India, Pakistan, Tibet, or Nepal, seldom has the Himalaya been the focus of examination in and of itself. Megan Adamson Sijapati, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Gettysburg College, and Jessica Vantine Birkenholtz, Assistant Professor of Religion at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, remedy this scholarly void in their new collection of essays, Religion and Modernity in the Himalaya (Routledge, 2016). The volume explores religious responses to Himalayan modernity as witnessed in the cultural encounter with new social realities, expectations, and limits. The characteristics of the Himalayan region are fluid, moving beyond geographical boundaries, or mountain and valley zones, as are the contemporary human processes of meaning-making in the face of globalization and modernization. In our conversation we discuss how modernity operates, the social and political factors shaping the Himalayan religious environment, processes of emplacement, Tibetan Buddhist media, environmentalism and development, changing pilgrimage practices, the Nepali Goddess tradition, political limits to religious education, and the dynamics of perceived margins and discourses of peripherality.


Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Nebraska Omaha. He is the author of Interpreting Islam in China: Pilgrimage, Scripture, and Language in the Han Kitab (Oxford University Press, 2017). He is currently working on a monograph entitled The Cinematic Lives of Muslims, and is the editor of the forthcoming volumes Muslims in the Movies: A Global Anthology (ILEX Foundation) and New Approaches to Islam in Film (Routledge). You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at [email protected].

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