The Peripheral Protagonist: The Curious Case of the Missing Trans-Himalayan Trader

3 March 2017

It is intriguing that despite a liberal economic narrative of borders as bridges, the transHimalayan trader has remained a rather forlorn and forgotten metaphor. This absence has however neither been voluntary nor anticipated but instead can be traced to fundamental flaws in India’s subregional discourse with its bias toward state-led formal institution building. Far from being marginal, the trans-Himalayan trader was in fact the central protagonist, as can be seen from a reading of the social and economic history of India’s borderlands. While this is not an attempt to read back into history a larger-than-life role for the border actor, it is a cue for India’s subregional discourse to imaginatively re-engage with the expertise and rich form of social capital that the transborder trader represents.