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Jelle J.P. Wouters

Himalayan Centre for Environmental Humanities (HCEH)
Royal Thimphu College, Bhutan


Joy LK Pachuau


Joy LK Pachuau 

Centre for Historical Studies
Jawaharlal Nehru University, India


Dan Smyer Yu


Dan Smyer Yu

Yunnan University



An overview

The Thematic Working Group (TWG) on Trans-Himalayan Environmental Humanities was initiated during the HUC Annual Meeting in Chengdu, China, in November 2017. Prof. Dan Smyer Yü of Yunnan University and Dr. Erik de Maaker of Leiden University are the founding co-leads of the TWG. Conceived as a multinational venue of collaborative research and teaching on the Himalayan environment, climate change, and traditional ecological knowledge, the group aims to explore the more-than-human meanings of the Earth, sustainability, and multispecies interactions and co-existence by building bridges between traditional knowledge systems and modern environmental sciences in the Anthropocene, the current geological era of the Earth largely induced by human industrial activities. The TWG is keen on researching traditional sustainability wisdoms from Himalayan indigenous societies as well as their hybrid forms incorporated with modern scientific methods. It is particularly dedicated to the practice of the humanist approaches from environmental humanities, a fast-growing interdisciplinary field of environmental studies concerning local manifestations of global climate and environmental changes.

Seeing the Earth as a relational world, the group situates its current research and teaching goals in these directions:

  • Multi-sited, comparative case studies of the Himalayan environment as an inclusive concept encompassing the physical Earth, human societies, modes of subsistence, cultural heritages, habitats of animals and plants, weather patterns, regional climate change, historical human and nonhuman migration patterns, indigenous ecological knowledge, and the implementations and outcomes of modern environmental science
  • Identifying contrasts, overlaps, and gaps in the approaches and perspectives of various stakeholders in relation to the impact of climate change and globalization on the fragile ecosystems of the Hindu Kush Himalayan region
  • Bringing local and global perspectives and knowledges in conversation with one another, and attempting to recognize their “ecotones” and bridging the gaps
  • Generating publicly engaged and policy-implicated discussions and conceptualizations from geographically specific, ethnolinguistically unique case studies
  • Sharing research outcomes and developing conversations with scholars and scientists specializing in different highlands of the Earth, such as the Andes and the Arctic tundra, for global comparative implications of Himalayan environmental studies



Ongoing collaborative research and teaching projects

2018–2020 Research project “Interfacing indigenous knowledge, modern science and policymaking: Water and climate change in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region” funded by the HUC Focus Grant
15–16 November 2018 “Building common ground – Project inaugural workshop”
3–6 November 2019 “Yunnan University–Himalayan University Consortium Trans-Himalayan Environmental Humanities publishing workshop”
30 November–11 December 2020 “Workshop on storying the sustainable intelligence of the Earth in the new Himalaya”
9–15 October 2021 “Storying climes of the Himalaya, the Andes, and the Arctic: Anthropogenic water bodies, multispecies vulnerability, and sustainable living”

Publication by project members


Dan Smyer Yü and Erik de Maaker, eds. 2021
Environmental Humanities in the New Himalayas: Symbiotic Indigeneity, Commoning, Sustainability. Routledge Environmental Humanities Series.

Jelle J.P. Wouters 2021
“Relatedness, Trans-species Knots, and Yak Personhood in the Bhutan Highlands.” Routledge Environmental Humanities Series. Charisma K. Lepcha “Lepcha Water View and Climate Change in Sikkim Himalaya.” Routledge Environmental Humanities Series.

Thinley Dema 2021
“Eco-spiritual and Economic Perceptions in Bhutan’s Haa District.” Routledge Environmental Humanities Series.

Bhagarbi Das 2021
“Narratives from A Fluvial World: Poetics of Charland Dwelling in a Neocolonial Assam.” Routledge Environmental Humanities Series.

Rongnyoo Lepcha and Mongfing Lepcha 2021
“Painting the Genesis of the Lepcha: A World Emerging from Water Spirits.” Routledge Environmental Humanities Series.

Ruth Gamble 2021
“Muddying the Waters: The Invention and Enclosure of Tibet’s Wetlands.” Routledge Environmental Humanities Series.

Erik de Maaker 2021
“Aloof but not Abandoned: Relationality and the Exploitation of the Environment in the Garo Hills of India.” Routledge Environmental Humanities Series.

Kinley Choki 2021
“Cordyceps, Climate Change and Cosmological Imbalance in the Bhutan highlands.” Routledge Environmental Humanities Series.

Rashila Deshar, Dibas Shrestha, Sarina Maharjan and Madan Koirala 2021
“Local Knowledge of Floods and Coping Strategies in Downstream Mahakali River, Nepal.” Routledge Environmental Humanities Series.

Anwesha Dutta and Shailendra Yashwant 2021
“Indigenous Irrigation System Linking People, Place and the Planet: the Practice of jamfwi on the India-Bhutan Borderlands.” Routledge Environmental Humanities Series.

Zainab Khalid 2021
“Rajaki: An Indigenous Approach to Commoning in Hunza, Pakistan.” Routledge Environmental Humanities Series.

Alexander Davis 2021
“Transboundary Environments, Militarization and Minoritization: Reimagining International Relations in the Himalaya from Ladakh, India.” Routledge Environmental Humanities Series.

Dan Smyer Yü 2021
“Symbiotic Indigeneity and Commoning in the Anthropogenic Himalayas.” Routledge Environmental Humanities Series.

John Grim 2021
“Conclusion: Indigenous Heritages and Sacred Earth.” Routledge Environmental Humanities Series.

Dan Smyer Yü 2020
“The Critical Zone as a Planetary Animist Sphere: Etho-graphing an Affective Consciousness of the Earth.” Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 14.2(2020)271-290.


Past co-lead


Erik de Maaker

Assistant Professor
Leiden University


Dr de Maaker is an assistant professor at the Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology at Leiden University in the Netherlands. He is a member of the academic committee of the Leiden International Institute for Asian Studies and a founding member of the Asian Borderlands Research Network.