Pastoral Politics and Turf Wars
Michael Dove and Carol Carpenter, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University
“Pastoral Politics” is a pioneering effort to transcend the usual cinematic portrayals of the “other”, of people who live by systems of resource-use that are no longer familiar to the industrialized West. It accomplishes this, first, by demythologizing pastoralists, in particular their image as removed from everyday society: one Gaddi pastoralist in the film spent twenty years in the Indian military and police service before retiring to pastoralism. After debunking this and other myths, the film-makers courageously refrain from replacing them with equally essentializing myths of their own making. The film is an almost Rashomon-like portrayal of the way that the Gaddi are differently perceived by different parties, including academics, activitsts, forest service officers and the Gaddi themselves. The film-makers eloquently demonstrate that one of the most central questions for the Gaddi is not simply who they are and how they should use those resources, but who we think they are and how we think they should use those resources, and ultimately, what these visions tells us not just about the Gaddi but about ourselves.
Amita Baviskar, Assistant Professor – Department of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics
Pastoral Politics focuses on the long standing conflict between herders and the state and masterfully captures the complex interplay between social groups and government policies. This sensitive account of changing Gaddi practices and perceptions argues eloquently in support of their rights to the environment. This thought provoking film is a valuable resource for stimulating discussion and action on issues of environment & development
Arun Agrawal, Department of Political Science, Yale University
The video Pastoral Politics examines the politics of herding and grazing in Himachal Pradesh, India. It is a thoughtful and carefully crafted story of migrant herders. Its main focus is on the interactions of pastoralists with government agencies and farmers, and inter-generational conflicts within pastoralist society. The film demonstrates the flaw inherent in trying to settle migrant herders, and in believing that pastoralist livelihoods and migrations are necessarily harmful to the environment. Instead, the film points to how herders lead a finely balanced existence between competing demands of politics, economics, and ecology.
Nancy Peluso, School of Management, Research and Policy on the Environment, Unieversity of California, Berkeley.
Pastoral Politics provides an informed and nuanced view of contemporary resource politics around grazing and transhumance in the Indian Himalayas. Set in the state of Himachal Pradesh, the film-makers introduce us to Gaddi herders, mountain agriculturists, urban-based government resource managers, and activist-scholars who tell often conflicting stories about grazing lifeways and their impacts on the environments of these legendary mountains. The film’s great strength lies in its conveyance of a sympathetic but unromanticized view of the plight of the Gaddi. Though some of their herding practices have their origins in centuries past, the obstacles they face are inscribed in the thoroughly modern dilemmas of small-scale resource managers. Most poignant in the film is the quandary a mobile community faces in establishing and maintaining its claims on lands scattered throughout the mountain regions.
The filming of this story on location in the alpine meadows and snow-covered passes makes for breath-taking viewing. The film-makers skillfully juxtapose the voices and faces and working landscapes of the herders and farmers with those of activists, social historians, and venerable Forest Department officials. The narration is straight-forward in its presentation and tone; neither the Gaddi nor those who would eliminate their occupations are presented with irony or paternalism: the story thus unfolds for the viewer through the extensive and informed comments of numerous actors. At the same time, the screen is not constantly filled with “talking heads”; the steep hills form the backdrop for many conversations, and we are treated to glimpses of the daily activities of the men, women, and animals for whom the hills and trails represent home. Overall, this film sets an excellent example for aspiring documentary makers in the field of resource politics. It makes an excellent teaching tool for undergraduate students in terms of its content and the policy issues it raises. For graduate students and activists, it provides an example of sensitive documentation of a conflict and the power of pictures and people’s own words to convey the problems they are facing today and in the future.
Patrick McCloskey, Mountain Research and Development, Volume 22 (2), 2002, pp. 201-203.
“The stories in these two videos (Pastoral Politics and Turf Wars) tell a cautionary tale of the requirement for government administrators, who are charged with the important task of protecting their country’s ecodiversity, to be sensitive to and respectful of the needs and knowledge of local people who have lived in the area for generations and whose livelihoods are entwined with the environment. Both films raise interesting and important issues around the need to balance ecological concerns with traditional use and caution against top-down solutions that fail either to understand or to take into account either the local environment or lifestyles. The videos are well shot and competently edited (and show those of us who have never been there the beauty of this mountainous area of India); but their greatest strength lies in their commitment to telling the stories of people who would not otherwise get an audience beyond their village.”
Pastoral Politics is a subtle and suggestive study of the Gaddi shepherds of Himalaya. It addresses some classic dilemmas of the contemporary world– the community versus the state, science versus folk knowledge, environment versus development — and does so with understanding and insight. An absorbing film.
VATAVARAN 2009, Leave Nothing but Footprints won the award for Best film on Ecotourism
Margaret Mead Film & Video Film festival 2008, New York – Village of Dust, City of Water nominated for awards.
Verviers, au film de l’eau, Belgium 2008 – Special mention for Village of Dust, City of Water
WILDLIFE ASIA 2007, Singapore – Village of Dust, City of Water won the Best Environment Feature award
WILDSCREEN 2006, UK – Village of Dust, City of Water nominated for awards
EARTHVISION 2005, Tokyo – Hunting Down Water nominated for awards
Development film festival 2005, Madurai – Best film award for Devta Activists
VATAVARAN-2005, Best Documentary (Environment) for River Taming Mantras
KARA FEST 2004, Karachi – Special mention for The Algebra of Water
Miami International Short film festival 2004 – Best Editing for Hunting Down Water
Festival du Cinema de Paris 2004 – Best Direction for Hunting Down Water
Festival du film de Strasbourg 2004 – Best Documentary for Hunting Down Water
JEEVIKA 2003 – A National Livelihoods Film Festival – Third prize for Turf Wars