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Title: History, practice, identity : an institutional ethnography of elephant handlers in Chitwan, Nepal
Author: Locke, Piers
ISNI:       0000 0001 3611 9570
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2006
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This thesis comprises an ethnographic documentation of the Nepali elephant stable or hattisar, an institution that has not previously been subject to anthropological scrutiny. In Nepal, as in other countries in South and Southeast Asia, elephants have been kept in captivity and deployed in various work duties under state sponsorship for millennia. These practices have produced a body of expert knowledge that has been transmitted both from master to apprentice, as well as through codified treatises on captive elephant management. In recent decades this set of traditional practices and its accompanying expert knowledge has had to adapt to the circumstances of a modernising world. As previous uses have fallen into abeyance, new uses have emerged, but which still rely on the same set of skilled practices. This thesis then is concerned with tracing the way in which the Nepali hattisar, specifically those of the Chitwan National Park, has changed from being a royal institution maintained primarily for the purpose of facilitating hunting expeditions, to one maintained to meet the new imperatives of tourism, conservation and natural resource management. Through a mixture of archival research and participant observation, involving my own apprenticeship as an elephant handler, I trace the relationships between history, practice and identity, arguing that the hattisar as a state institution is becoming increasingly subject to regulatory control, that enskilment as a handler is dependent upon participation in a community of practice, and that practice within the enclaved domain of the hattisar engenders a distinctive professional identity. More generally, by exploring the enc1aved world of the hattisar, the social position of handlers, their internal hierarchy, the intimate relation between man and elephant, and the process of skills acquisition, this thesis demonstrates and explains the formation of a specific professional sub-culture or occupational community, whose emergent sociality focussed on animal handling is uniquely described here.
Supervisor: Parkes, Peter ; Newing, Helen S. ; Puri, Raj Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: GN Anthropology