Contested Affluence: Cultural Politics of Pashmina Wealth and Wildlife Conservation in Ladakh

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperChapterpeer-review


Purpose-This chapter attempts to critically examine the wildlife conservation discourse that argues for curtailing the livestock grazing inside the Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary, situated on the India’s international borders with China in southeast Ladakh. The conventional conservation discourse points at the (supposed) greed of the Changpa pastoralists in accumulating an increasing number of pashmina goats as a primary environmental cause of wildlife loss in Changthang; however, there is a critical lack of insight into the political and historical mechanisms that lie within the dynamic interaction between resource access and socio- economic inequalities, critical for understanding Changpa pastoralism today.

Methodology/approach and findings: Ethnographic inquiry into the Changpa economy before the closure of Ladakh-Tibet border trade in 1962, and afterwards, has highlighted the political and economic trans- formations in the area, as well as the cultural politics of market integration and increasing inabilities of the mobile Changpa pastoralists to access vital productive resources. Inequalities reflected in the contemporary livestock data, acquired from the pastoralists, underscore the processes of institutional bricolage, non-cooperative labour, exchange/wage herding and capital-dominated market networks, making pastoralism impossible for several of the households.

Originality/value - The chapter argues against making livestock withdrawal a major aim of conservation sciences. It calls instead for the recognition of state-provisioned commodified pashmina rearing, seen through the prism of changing abilities and shifting institutions, where unequal access to productive resources is a reflection of both historical dispossessions and also economic impoverishments of Changpa today.

Keywords: Cultural politics; pastoralism; wildlife conservation; access; labour; markets

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Economics of Ecology, Exchange, and Adaptation: Anthropological Explorations
EditorsDonald Wood
Place of PublicationUK
PublisherEmerald Group Publishing Limited
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-78635-227-9
ISBN (Print)978-1-78635-228-6
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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