Malana: the Political System of a Himalayan Community


Author: Colin Rosser (1926-2012)
Genre: Social Science, Politics & Society
Language: English

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Book Description

“a lost classic of the ethnographic village studies genre” — Dr Richard Axelby

Explore the captivating world of Malana through the lens of Colin Rosser’s seminal work, ‘Malana: the Political System of a Himalayan Community.’ Originally presented as a PhD dissertation in 1956 at the SOAS, University of London, this book unveils the intricate social and political fabric of Malana, a ‘hermit’ village in the Himalayas.

Rosser’s thorough exploration, based on twenty-one months of fieldwork between 1951 and 1952, challenges stereotypes associated with the then isolated community of Malana. His initial impressions, published in 1952, hinted at Malana’s uniqueness, but it is his comprehensive PhD thesis, unpublished until now, that provides a rich tapestry of empirical details. This long-awaited publication, now made accessible with help from Colin Rosser’s sons, Jon and the late Vivian Rosser, is “a lost classic of the ethnographic village studies genre”.

The book offers readers a profound appreciation of Malana, dispelling romanticized images and negative stereotypes while unveiling the village’s contradictions and complexities. It stands as a timeless contribution to anthropology, providing a baseline against which development can be measured and offering a nuanced understanding of a community managing change within the broader context of the world.

About the Author

Colin Rosser, born into a mining family in south Wales in 1926, carved an indelible legacy as a scholar, explorer, and visionary in the realms of anthropology and development planning. His remarkable journey unfolded against the backdrop of World War II, where he served as a Gurkha officer in India—a pivotal experience that ignited a lifelong passion for the Himalayas.

A distinguished graduate with First Class Honours in Archaeology and Anthropology from the University of Cambridge in 1950, Rosser embarked on an academic odyssey that left an enduring mark. His dedication to understanding the sociological dynamics of Malana village in the Kullu Valley resulted in a groundbreaking dissertation submitted in 1956—an unparalleled account of the community’s political and social organization that remains a touchstone in anthropological literature related to the region.

Joining the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Rosser contributed significantly to the SOAS expedition to Nepal, delving into the intricacies of the Kathmandu valley’s Newars. His academic prowess continued at the University College of Swansea, where he co-authored the esteemed ‘Family and Social Change in a south Wales town’ in 1965.

Parallel to his academic journey, Rosser emerged as a luminary in development planning. His involvement in the Calcutta Metropolitan Planning Organisation from 1961 to 1967 sparked an enduring interest in urbanization, poverty, and housing in developing countries. In 1976, he assumed the directorship of the Development Planning Unit at University College London, establishing master’s programs in Indonesia through a World Bank-funded contract.

A transformative moment came in 1984 when Rosser assumed leadership of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Kathmandu. Overcoming diplomatic challenges, he molded ICIMOD into a pivotal hub for research and training in the Hindu-Kush Himalaya region until his retirement.
In the late 1990s, Rosser revisited Malana village, witnessing the intrusion of Italian hippies and the impact of development. Upon retirement, he settled in the Malvern Hills, dedicating himself to advising the British aid ministry on supporting Cuttack in Orissa, resulting in the publication of ‘Jobs for the Poor’ in 1996.

Colin Rosser’s demise in 2012 marked the end of a life marked by exceptional energy and dedication. His legacy endures not only in publications but in the institutions he nurtured, reflecting a profound impact on anthropology, urban planning, and international development.

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