Mountains of Risk: The Many Faces of Vulnerability in the Central Himalayas
Are the people not resilient to the vulnerabilities when exposed to a certain hazard because of their marginalisation or remoteness or are they not resilient because of the transforming structures and processes that keep them vulnerable? What are the vulnerabilities revolving around the households in the Central Himalayan region and how much of it is tied to the indicators of climate change and does those vulnerabilities echo the same anxieties as presented by the literature of vulnerability studies? I started this research on back of a quantitative framework of vulnerability and qualitative ethnographic analysis exploring the questions regarding household vulnerability in the Central Himalayas. Applying this mixed methodological approach I did a parallel analysis of household vulnerability in the Central Himalayas.
Current vulnerability researches suffer from shallow attempts of indoctrinating interdisciplinary approaches with most research designs confined to homogeneous representation of the communities’ perception of vulnerability. These risks or vulnerabilities are end products of the failure of the democratic state’s provisions of providing the basic developmental necessities to the people, and in turn, creating relationships that can be best understood through prism of relationalities of individual, HH, community and society’s vulnerability (Chakraborty, 2018; Turner, 2015). Vulnerable people are at risk not only because they have been exposed to a certain hazard but because they are not resilient enough to face the hazard due to their marginalisation which is the by-product of both centralised and local institutional processes and structures that now occupy the village spaces in the central Himalayan region.
Through this research I have tried to focus on the vulnerability of the HH both through the purview of quantified variables tied to the popular notions of sensitivity, exposure and adaptive capacity of the HH and also, through some of the relational subjectivities that revolve around village spaces in the central Himalayan region. The quantified analysis brings to light the risk faced by the community on exposure to a certain hazard and its rendition is based on the representation of vulnerability on justification of regional risk and precarity (Chakraborti, 2018; Guneratne, 2010). The quantified indicator base analysis showcase different proxies when evaluating the vulnerability and livelihood context of the HH, the narratives that I encounter and have told appear to demystify the compounding effect of the quantitative variables. So while, the quantitative analysis explains the effects of variables that are tied to a certain scale of evaluation the relational prism goes beyond this spectrum and explains it through engagements of relational spaces that the regional subjects are engaged with. Contrary to the popular beliefs of vulnerability studies, the HH in the central Himalayan area do not echo the anxieties of climate change as much as been represented by the region as being environmentally/ climatically fragile. There is a conflicting temporality everywhere and echoes of anxieties are visible that are produced through the changing transformation of structures and processes that are now revolving around the village spaces in the central Himalayas. Anxieties which were not limited to the discourses of developmental specialists and political dialogues of marginalisation and remoteness of the region but to bigger issues of power struggles, caste dynamics, corruption and growing aspirations of the village youth.