Yale University Department of Anthropology

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    Yale Universityhttp://www.yale.edu

Sara Shneiderman

Assistant Professor of Anthropology

& South Asian Studies

Ph.D. Cornell University, 2009

10 Sachem Street, Room 126
Tel: (203) 436-4270
Fax: (203) 432-3669

Personal Website

Media Page

I am a socio-cultural anthropologist working in the Himalayan regions of Nepal, India, and China’s Tibetan Autonomous Region. My research explores the relationships between political discourse, ritual action, and cross-border mobility in producing ethnic identities and shaping social transformation. Current research projects include an ethnography of “post-conflict” state restructuring in Nepal, and an exploration of trans-Himalayan citizenship across the historical and contemporary borders of India, China, and Nepal.

My forthcoming book is titled Rituals of Ethnicity: Thangmi Identities Across Himalayan Borders (University of Pennsylvania Press). An ethnography focusing on the cross-border circulation of Thangmi people and their ideas about ethnic, national, religious and political identity, Rituals of Ethnicity offers new explanations for the powerful persistence of ethnicity as a category of identification today despite the increasing realities of mobile, translocal lives. The book is based on over a decade of ethnographic research with diverse members of the Thangmi community in the Dolakha and Sindhupalchok districts of central-eastern Nepal, as well as in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal, India, and the neighboring state of Sikkim.

I have also published several articles on the themes of Nepal’s Maoist movement; ethnic classification, affirmative action, and the politics of recognition in South Asia; and borders and citizenship in the Himalaya. I am currently preparing another manuscript that presents Thangmi ritual texts in Nepali and English translation. This is a collaborative project with an indigenous Thangmi researcher, a Nepali translator, and a linguistic anthropologist.

Multimedia technologies are at the core of my ethnographic methodology, and I am a founding member of the Digital Himalaya Project. I am also the Faculty Coordinator of the Yale Himalaya Initiative .

photo © Harold Shapiro

Shneiderman S & Turin M.  2012.  Nepal and Bhutan in 2011: Cautious Optimism. Asian Survey (year-end edition). 52(1): 138-146.

Shneiderman S. 2011.  Synthesizing Practice and Performance, Securing Recognition: Thangmi Cultural Heritage in Nepal and India. in Ritual, Heritage and Identity: The Politics of Culture and Performance in a Globalised World. Christiane Brosius and Karin Polit, eds. London: Routledge. 202-245.

Shneiderman S. 2010. Are the Central Himalayas in Zomia? Some Scholarly and Political Considerations Across Time and Space. in a special issue of the Journal of Global History entitled Zomia and Beyond. Jean Michaud, ed. 5 (2): 289-312.

Shneiderman S. 2010. Producing’ Thangmi Ritual Texts: Practice, Performance and Collaboration” in a special issue of Language Documentation and Description produced by the World Oral Literature Project. Mark Turin and Imogen Gunn, eds. 8: 159-174.


Shneiderman S. 2009. The Formation of Political Consciousness in Rural Nepal. in a special issue of the Journal Dialectical Anthropology entitled Windows into a Revolution: Ethnographies of Maoism in South Asia, Alpa Shah and Judith Pettigrew, eds. 33 (3-4): 287-308.

Shneiderman S. 2009. Ethnic (P)reservations: Comparing Thangmi Ethnic Activism in Nepal and India” in Ethnic Activism and Civil Society in South Asia, David Gellner, ed. Delhi: Sage Publications. 115-141.

Shneiderman S and Middleton T. 2008. Reservations, Federalism and the Politics of Recognition in Nepal. Economic and Political Weekly. 43(19): 39-45. May 10 – May 16, 2008.

Recent & Featured Publications

Shah A & Shneiderman S (2013) The practices, policies and politics of transforming inequality in South Asia: Ethnographies of affirmative action. Focaal—Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology. 65: 3-12. Introduction to guest edited special issue “Toward an Anthropology of Affirmative Action”. DOI:10.3167/fcl.2013.650101


Shneiderman S (2013) Developing a culture of marginality: Nepal's current classificatory moment. Focaal—Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology. 65: 42-55. In the special issue “Toward an Anthropology of Affirmative Action”, guest edited by Sara Shneiderman and Alpa Shah. DOI:10.3167/fcl.2013.650105


Shneiderman S (2013) Himalayan Border Citizens: Sovereignty and Mobility in the Nepal-Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) of China Border Zone. Political Geography. In the special issue “Borders in South Asia” edited by Jason Cons and Romola Sanyal. DOI:10.3167/fcl.2013.650101