The Future of Communities Losing Land and Culture to Globalization: Zomia


     As James C. Scott describes it in his book ‘The Art of Not Being Governed’, lying at altitudes from two hundred or three hundred meters above sea level to more than four thousand meters, Zomia could be thought of as a Southeast Asian Appalachia, were it not for the fact that it sprawls across eight nation-states. Running from the Chinese provinces of Yunnan and Guizhou to Central Highlands of Vietnam westward all the way to northeastern India, Zomia is a part of what are called non-state spaces, primarily formed by communities escaping from expanding governmental forces and trying to carry forward their own culture.

      The Bon community is one such community living in the Lower Mustang region of Nepal. Bon is a religion which predates Buddhism and with the Tibetan Empire expanding itself in the 7th century to what would later form current China, the Bons’ thought of it to be important to escape to a region where subjugation from these governmental and imperialistic powers could be prevented. But this ‘stateless’ lifestyle is changing - countries are creating borders. There was a time when these terrains were rugged enough for nations to find it difficult to have control over them but with time, and advancement in technology- nations have reached the advancement to even set up military bases in these regions.

     To the Bon community, this means that the very reason for which they came to the mountains is vanishing- their culture is vanishing. Parents prefer to send their children to India and other neighboring nations to receive better education and ultimately lead a better and modern lifestyle but in doing so these children are actually forgetting where they truly come from. So what is the Bon community doing to prevent this? They’re building schools, and it seems to be the only way to meet their motives.

     Moreover, China and India have already agreed upon building a trade route through Nepal which goes over the Mustang region to make exchange of trade and its transport much easier between the two countries. Modernization and globalization is only so good until it doesn’t occur at the cost of one’s culture.

    Be it any community, no one wishes to see their culture, customs and traditions coming to an end. This economic way of life is probably- in a philosophical way- overtaking the essence of life. There are limits beyond which cultural problems become political and that might just create further problems for any nation state. Moreover, it gives rise to yet another way of communal politics. And this could as well be the case in this region of the world.

    As for the future of this particular community, it’s not the only one to be facing such problems. There are several more and in different regions of the world. The only way which seems favorable to their ‘purpose’ is education and with time maybe ‘modernization’ which is quite a paradox theory in its own. In simple words, it’s complex. From historic claims to modern and global needs- what can be weighed more? It’s a question of pride and prejudice, of culture and country.