Archives

Month: May 2015

The Nation, the State, the Nation-State: How do we talk about what we are?

Spring Edition , Let us be very frank. “Identity” does not really exist, at least not as an external object, out there somewhere in material reality. This may seem like a harsh statement to some, but think about it! If I look around me, beginning, let us say, with the clothes I...

Who is a Bhutanese?

Spring Edition , I recall that it was in New York in 1980, when I was Bhutan’s permanent representative and ambassador to the United Nations that Dale Djerassi1 interviewed me for the 1982 PBS documentary, Bhutan- A Strange Survival. One of the questions put forward was: Who is a Bhutanese? Situation around...

What makes you not a Bhutanese?

Spring Edition , What does it mean to be Bhutanese, or not? Is there more to it than just being born in Bhutan of Bhutanese parents? I have a friend who was not born in Bhutan and whose parents are not Bhutanese, but who speaks Sharchokpa fluently, who is totally loyal to...

What is the “Bhutanese-ness” of the Bhutanese people?

Spring Edition , World leaders, anthropologists, philosophers, stateless people around the world have pondered over the question of national identity, trying to define and re-define it at different times, under different circumstances, in different perspectives. Many believe that it is not really definable. But the discourse goes on. This paper grapples with...

What would a 21st century Bhutanese identity be?

Spring Edition , Our inheritance Bhutan’s journey from the 20th into the 21st century is one that the Bhutanese take great pride in. Our Fourth Druk Gyalpo regarded as a wise, skillful and compassionate leader worked tirelessly to build on the foundations laid by His predecessors, leading the country to where it...

Bhutan as recognised by history

Spring Edition , Is there such a thing as a Bhutanese “national identity?” If so, how can it be defined, and how did it arise? Of related interest is the question of governance. Over the past thousand years or so, Bhutan has passed through several distinct phases of political organisation, the latest...

The cultural construction of Bhutan: an unfinished story

Spring Edition , Our future sovereignty as a nation-state will continue to depend upon the articulation of a cultural imperative that asserts our distinctive Bhutanese identity.* Most Bhutanese would be familiar with the postulation that Bhutan’s survival as an independent nation rests on its unique cultural identity. That, in the absence of...

Language and identity in Bhutan

Spring Edition , In 1812, the famous linguist Wilhelm von Humboldt wrote that the difference between nations is most clearly manifest in their languages. In 1856, August Pott wrote that language is the key trait defining nationhood. In 1987, Emil Cioran wrote that we do not really reside in a country, but...

Beyond cultural preservation: contemporary art and identity in Bhutan

Spring Edition , “While a few may have succeeded to integrate the two seamlessly, thus having the best of both worlds, most modern Bhutanese are in a cultural limbo, having relinquished the old but not fully reached the new.” – The History of Bhutan, Karma Phuntsho Is it possible to be modern...

Manufacturing Singapore

Spring Edition , At Singapore’s Changi international airport, a tourist from Delhi gets into a local yellow taxi for a ride into one of the city’s many luxurious hotels. Eager to learn more about the island nation known as a marvel of economic success, the visitor strikes up a conversation with the...

What does it mean to be an Indian?

Spring Edition , “Ind” or “Sindh-stan” was a Greek and Persian construct referring to the river Indus as a territorial marker. Historians tell us that it was only after the late 14th century that residents of India began to refer to India as Hindustan. This essentially historical and geographical determination has been...

Nationalism in a new republic

Spring Edition , “A yam between two stones” is how Nepal’s founding monarch, Prithvi Narayan Shah, described the unified kingdom he forged out of dozens of feuding Himalayan principalities in the 18th century. Even back then, it was evident to the king that his new nation had to contend with the geopolitical...

Being a Bhutanese means being a GNH citizen

Spring Edition , There is a totally different level of pride, perhaps the best kind, that I feel when I call myself Bhutanese. It is a beautiful feeling one gets when one thinks about the best thing in life. It makes us feel most fortunate. Hence, it will not be easy for...

What it means to be Bhutanese

Spring Edition , “We Bhutanese are an endangered species,” my friend, the former Gelephu National Council Member, is fond of saying. He means that partly in jest. But, in many ways, I find that to be true indeed. In an increasingly complex world, vexed by major economic disruptions, a deteriorating  environment,  an...

What does it mean to be a Bhutanese?

Spring Edition , Being born in Bhutan is not enough for an individual to call himself or herself a Bhutanese. One has to have all the moral values and attitudes that make the Bhutanese distinct from any other people in the world. Being a Bhutanese is being a patriotic citizen, preserving our...

My identity as a person and as a Bhutanese

Spring Edition , Strictly speaking, from a Buddhist philosophical point of view, the conception that “I” am Dorji Wangchuk or that Bhutan is “my” country would be a misconception or misconstruction. This is because although the historical Buddha himself seems to have been rather noncommittal about the existence or nonexistence of a...

Living the Bhutanese life abroad

Spring Edition , I am a Bhutanese woman living abroad. Without trying to make the statement sound like an epiphany, I know my story is the story of many other Bhutanese women who have left our country deep in the mountains of the Himalayas to live elsewhere to seek better economic opportunities...

I guess you can never really leave

Spring Edition , “Where are you from?” I am often asked. “Bhutan,” I reply. “Oh, the happy country?” That is what most people know of Bhutan. I’m pleased and also a little embarrassed at the same time. The aspiration of Gross National Happiness above Gross Domestic Product has defined Bhutan’s modernisation philosophy....

The way we think matters more

Spring Edition , Sixty-five-year-old Lopon Kunzang Thinley has been a researcher and writer for 31 years. He is the author of four dictionaries, including Bhutan’s first Dzongkha dictionary, and some 20 notable books. After passing out of the erstwhile Rigzhung Lobdra in Semtokha, he became a teacher. While teaching in remote Pemagatshel,...

Conversation with the Bhutanese farmer

Spring Edition , Chimmi Dem, 57, is a Bhutanese farmer living in a village not far from Thimphu. This interview is extracted from my conversations with her. Q. What is life like in the village these days?                              ...

Religious History of the South: a very late review

Spring Edition , Sometime in the 10th month of Iron Hog year, 1731, Tenzin Chogyal, the prelate who later became the 10th Chief Abbot of Bhutan, offered a cup of fine tea before the physical remains of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the founder of Bhutan. He also carried out an elaborate offering to...

The History of Bhutan: A review

Spring Edition , This is a big book in every way: long, heavy, expensive, and content full. But far more than that, it is a big book because of the role it should, indeed must, play in the history of Bhutan itself. The History of Bhutan constitutes an important moment in the...

National Identity

Events , The launch of the Druk Journal is dedicated to the fourth Druk Gyalpo, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, as the nation celebrates the Diamond Jubilee of his birth date.