The Tarai of Morang, until the early 20th century, was reported to be “the most malarious and unhealthy district” (Oldfield, 1881, p. 61‐622). While outsiders feared the malaria and harsh environmental conditions of the Tarai, the aboriginal inhabitants, the Tarai ādivāsi such as Dhimal, Meche, Tharu, Koch and others who survived malaria, transformed these seemingly “deadly places” into their home. For the 19thcentury Nepali state, the Tarai was a region to be exploited – for land, labor, revenue and political power – and, hence the malarial environment posed a major challenge for its colonizing project. But for the Tarai ādivāsi, the malarial environment, and their ability to survive it, provided them relative autonomy in evading the extractive landlord state. In what ways did malaria – both as an endemic condition and an image – mediate relationships between ādivāsi, outsiders, and the state in the Tarai? The paper attempts to address this question by focusing on Dhimal, one ādivāsi community from Nepal’s easternmost Tarai region of Morang and Jhapa. The primary data for this paper is based on my PhD dissertation research that I undertook between 2007-­‐2009 with the Dhimal community in Morang and Jhapa districts.

In  this  paper,  I  will  discuss  how  Dhimal  understand  and  analyze  their  distinctive history  of  belonging  in  the  Tarai  region  with  reference  to  the  region’s  malarial  environment in  the  past.  I  will  foreground  Dhimal  perspectives  and  experiences  to  show  how  Dhimal cultural  capacity  and  collective  agency  of  thriving  in  malarial  environment  shapes  their sense  of  ādivāsi  identity  and  historical  belonging  in  the  Tarai.  In  doing  so,  this  paper highlights  the  value  and  importance  of  indigenous  historical  analysis  as  central  analytics  in studying the changing state‐ādivāsi relationships vis‐à‐vis control of land. Since there is a dearth  of  scholarly  works  on  social  history  of  malaria  in  Nepal,  this  paper  also  contributes in addressing this knowledge gap.