Crossing the Border to India
Youth, Migration, and Masculinities in Nepal
Publication: Jul 18
Publication: Jul 18
5.25 x 8.5
3 figs., 1 maps
How the changing political economy of rural Nepal informs the desire and agency of young male migrants who seek work in citiesRead the Introduction (pdf).
Given the limited economic opportunities in rural Nepal, the desire of young men of all income and education levels, castes, and ethnicities to migrate has never been higher. Crossing the Border to India presents an ethnography of male labor migration from the western hills of Nepal to cities in India. Jeevan Sharma shows how not only livelihood and gender but also structural violence impact a migrant’s perceptions, experiences, and aspirations.
Based on long-term fieldwork, this study captures the actual experiences of those who cross the border. Sharma shows that Nepali migration to India not only allows young men from poorer backgrounds to “save there and eat here” but also offers them a strategy for escaping the more regimented social order of the village. Additionally, migrants may benefit from the opportunities extended by the “open border” between India and Nepal to attain independence and experience a distant world. In fact, however, Nepali migrants are regularly subjected to extreme ill-treatment. Thus, while the idea of freedom is an important factor in Nepali men’s migration decisions, their actual experience often entails suffering and lack of freedom.
“Some of the most evocative ethnographic analyses in the book describe in detail how migration is a complex response to changing masculinities in rapidly globalizing rural Nepal…. One of the strengths of this book is the thorough treatment given to the political economy of Nepali migration…. Crossing the Border to India contributes a significant account of a seldom-studied phenomenon…. (T)his book is essential reading for scholars, students, and civil society activists who want to better understand the lives of young male migrants, both in Nepal and in other contexts.”
—Journal of Asian Studies
"Sharma’s Crossing the Border to India is a sensitive ethnography that conveys what it is like to be a Nepali migrant in India. Especially valuable is the fact that gender (masculinity) and the life course are central to this cultural account of a phenomenon that has hitherto been dominated by quantitative analyses. The vignettes are excellent and the characters are recognizable throughout the book."
—David N. Gellner, Professor of Anthropology, University of Oxford, author of The Anthropology of Buddhism and Hinduism: Weberian Themes, and editor of Borderland Lives in Northern South Asia
"Sharma views migrants not as victims whose choices are determined solely by lack of economic opportunities, but as dynamic actors in a process in which their actions are shaped by a gendered masculine social experience.... The book is illuminating in showing how rural livelihoods have been progressively divorced from farming and the land.... His gendered masculine approach may be on controversial ground, at odds with campaigners and activists, but it gives a fresh and challenging perspective on an important matter of current debate."
— Asian Affairs
"Crossing the Border to India is an important contribution to the scholarship on migration, development, and masculinities. Sharma provides a new perspective for understanding the complex relationship between immigration, work, and gender. This text will appeal to a broad range of scholars across multiple disciples as well as nonacademic readers interested in the ways interact with our understanding and expression of gender."
— Men and Masculinities
"Noting migrants’ invisibility in the Nepalese public debate, Sharma’s Crossing the Border to India pays tribute to hundreds of thousands of men who toil in India for their family’s survival in Nepal. Sharma’s book is a welcome study of circular labor migration through the lens of masculinity.... Based on fieldwork spanning over ten years, Sharma’s demonstration is convincing, bringing food for thought to several topics relating to labor migration, an ubiquitous and decisive social phenomena nowadays in Nepal.... Sharma’s book is fully recommendable, both for those interested in migration and masculinity studies and for those who want to better understand migrants’ mindset in a time of mass migration from Nepal."
— Himalaya, the Journal of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies
Table of Contents
Note on Nepali Words and Nepali and Indian Currency
1. Political Economy of Rural Livelihoods
2. History and Culture of Migration in Nepal
3. Leaving the Hills
4. Border Crossing
5. Marginal Migrant Workers in Indian Cities
6. Migrant Risk Behavior in Mumbai
About the Author(s)
In the Series
Global Youth edited by Craig Jeffrey and Jane Dyson
The Global Youth Book Series, edited by Craig Jeffrey and Jane Dyson, comprises research-based studies of young people in the context of global social, political and economic change. The series brings together work that examines youth and aspects of global change within sociology, anthropology, development studies, geography, and educational studies. Our emphasis is on youth in areas of the world that are often excluded from mainstream discussions of young people, such as Latin America, Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe, but we also welcome studies from Western Europe and North America, and books that bridge the global north and global south.