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Durham University

Department of Anthropology


Publication details for Dr Ben Campbell

Campbell, Ben (2018). Moral Ecologies of Subsistence and Labour in a Migration-affected Community of Nepal. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 24(S1): 151-165.

Author(s) from Durham


Labour migration from subsistence households in Tamang‐speaking communities of Northern Nepal heralds their transition from an agrarian to a remittance economy. This migration entails the abandonment of subsistence labour processes that once wove households together in reciprocal mutuality. Migration thus dislocates persons from moral economic institutions and norms, and reciprocity is replaced by cash‐calculative decisions about food systems. However, migration is a broader sociocultural response to historical precarities and struggle over de‐territorializing effects of state development. Moving beyond standard ‘peasant economy’ forms of analysis, and domestic autarky in particular, this essay explores neglected areas of the comparative anthropology of subsistence labour, and situates the ethnography of work and power relations in indigenous and other critiques of development nationalism in Nepal. Redirecting labour abroad creates tensions in domestic reproduction. These surface in intra‐clan gift exchange, in managing agro‐pastoral viability, and in the ritual maintenance of order among humans and nonhumans that invokes ancestral migrations for dealing with dilemmas about contemporary dispersals.